How hummingbirds use spider silk to build better nests

July 13, 2016, 11:36 a.m.

Have you ever stopped to consider the nest of a hummingbird? So tiny and light, they can be crafted on the edge of thin branches or even balanced on strings of holiday lights. But what are they made of? Not the same mix of twigs and scraps that so many other birds use. Instead, hummingbird females gather soft, stretchy materials.

Hummingbird mothers craft nests with materials such as moss, lichen, plant down, cotton fibers, feathers, fuzz, fur and even spider silk. The spider silk works not only to bind the nest to the branch, twig or other foundation, but it also helps the nest expand without breaking as the chicks grow.

According to World of Hummingbirds: "Hummingbirds build velvety, compact cups with spongy floors and elastic sides that stretch as the young grow. They weave together twigs, plant fibers, and bits of leaves, and use spider silk as threads to bind their nests together and anchor them to the foundation."

The elasticity provided by the spider silk is important, since the chicks grow quickly; as they gain size, the nest can stretch to accommodate them.

Soft, stretchy and durable — the perfect qualities for a nest of tiny chicks!

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