bird nest feature

When an expectant mother prepares for her offspring’s arrival by obsessively redecorating, baby-proofing, and sanitizing everything in sight, we call it “nesting.” As I’m sure you all know,  this term is a reference to what birds do before they lay their eggs (if you never realized it before, your secret is safe). The difference is that the hatching of the eggs and their survival against predators literally depends on the creation of these nests. If you’ve ever gotten the chance to inspect a bird’s nest up close, you know that there is more than meets the eye. These structures are made of anything the birds can get their beaks on and are intricately woven into complex shapes and sizes. It is truly an art form.

San Francisco-based photographer Sharon Beals saw the beauty of these masterpieces when she decided to photograph the nests of different species of birds collected over the past two centuries and kept in several Californian museums. Beals explains, “It was only after making the first photograph of a nest, drawn to its palette and messy, yet graceful and functional form, that I knew I had found my medium—or at least a way that I could be a medium for the birds.”

Her work is currently on display at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. until May 2, 2014. You can visit the Smithsonian Museum’s Arts and Culture blog for more photos from her collection, as well as links for Beals’ exhibition and her book,  Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds That Built Them.

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Category: Photography