Zebra Finches build nests that do not resemble their natal nest

Felicity Muth*, Susan D. Healy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Nests are built by nearly all bird species and can be extremely varied in their structural characteristics, both within and among species. As with a number of other avian behaviours, it seems plausible that early learning might be important in producing adult nest-building behaviour. To examine whether preferences that adults have for nest materials are related to their early-life experience, we experimentally manipulated the colour of the nest in which Zebra Finch pairs built and raised chicks. We then tested these chicks at maturity to determine whether they preferred the colour of the nest from which they had fledged or preferred the same colour as their father. We also examined the overall structure of nests that fathers and their sons built to determine whether the nest a male builds resembles that from which he hatched. When males and females naive to building were paired as adults and tested for their nest material preferences, they did not prefer the colour of their natal nest. When these males were re-paired and their preference tested a second time, the majority then preferred the colour that their father had preferred (which was also the colour preferred by most of the males). The structural components of a male's nest did not resemble the nest built by his father, but neither did his father's nests resemble each other. We found no evidence that the experience of the nest from which a bird fledges influences his preferences for the colour of nest material or the structure of his first nest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-226
Number of pages9
JournalAvian Biology Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • SONG
  • nest building
  • early experience
  • avian behaviour
  • learning
  • juvenile
  • imprinting


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