Birds' Nests: Miniature Marvels

Birds' Nests: Miniature Marvels

Julie Leibach
Published: 03/01/2010

“‘My favorite palette is the color of winter decay,’ says photographic artist Sharon Beals. It’s 7 a.m. in San Francisco, but she is already on her way out the door to work on her project for the day. Much of her professional photography takes her outside, ‘wandering a river for hours, looking at bugs, muck, and minnows,’ as she says, or photographing native plants or their pollinators. Today, though, she will spend up to 11 hours in a museum, examining birds’ nests and photographing many of them. The results will add to her growing collection of nest portraits—extraordinarily detailed images that have already wowed scientists and artists alike.”

Audubon field editor Kenn Kaufman goes on to describe the process Beals followed to capture on film the exquisite birds nests featured in “Small Miracles," a photo essay appearing in our March-April 2008 issue. He also sheds light on nests themselves—how they’re created, what they’re used for (think cradling, not housing), and how they vary among species.

For a gallery of Beals’s photographs (including bonus shots not featured in the magazine), click here.

To learn more about techniques a few birds employ to assemble their nests, check out Kristin Phillips’s article here (with an anecdote from our editor-in-chief).