From neurons to nests: nest-building behaviour as a model in behavioural and comparative neuroscience

Zachary Jonas Hall, Simone L Meddle, Susan Denise Healy

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Despite centuries of observing the nest building of most extant bird species, we know surprisingly little about how birds build nests and, specifically, how the avian brain controls nest building. Here, we argue that nest building in birds may be a useful model behaviour in which to study how the brain controls behaviour. Specifically, we argue that nest building as a behavioural model provides a
unique opportunity to study not only the mechanisms through which the brain controls behaviour within individuals of a single species but also how evolution may have shaped the brain to produce interspecific variation in nestbuilding
behaviour. In this review, we outline the questions in both behavioural and comparative neuroscience that nest building could be used to address, summarize recent findings regarding the neurobiology of nest building in labreared zebra finches and across species building different nest structures, and suggest some future directions for the neurobiology of nest building.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Ornithology
Early online date12 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • Nest building
  • Neurobiology
  • Behavioural neuroscience
  • Motor sequencing
  • Comparative neuroscience


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