July 7, 2020

Learn about our feathered friends while building your own decorative nest

How do birds build nests?

Not all, but many types of birds make nests for keeping their eggs safe and warm until they are ready to hatch and raising their young. They use sticks, leaves, animal fur and their own saliva to build these cool structures.

The state bird of North Carolina is the cardinal, and they like to make nests during the springtime. You may have seen cardinals flying around your neighborhood or park lately.

It is not uncommon to find cardinal nests in trees, especially during the springtime, and even though it is okay to look at them, it is important that we don’t disturb them. When they are undisturbed, they typically look something like this:

Since we don’t want to disturb them to bring them inside, today we are going to make our own cardinal bird nests that you can use to decorate your home.

This fun activity will take about 30 minutes to complete, plus drying time. It is great for all ages.


  • Shredded paper
  • Bowl
  • Balloons
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • Craft glue diluted with water, about 1:1 mixture (may also be decoupage);
  • Paintbrush


  1. Blow up the balloon to about medium size. This will determine the size of your nest, so don’t make it too big. Use the bowl to hold the balloon in place.
  2. Spray one side of the balloon with vegetable oil.
  3. Stir the water and glue mixture to loosen it up a bit so that it’s pretty well dissolved and runny.
  4. Dip the shredded paper into the mixture and use the brush to ensure that it is evenly coated on both sides.
  1. Drape the shredded paper on the balloon one at a time. Be sure to lay the paper strips in multiple directions to mimic the ways that the cardinal would build her nest.
  1. Continue to add coated shredded paper the balloon is mostly covered.
  1. Once you are happy with how your nest is coming together, put it aside and let it dry.
  2. Separate the nest from the balloon once it is dry and trim off any excess strips.
  1. Fill the nest with some more shredded paper to create the bedding.

Voila! You now have a bird’s nest of your very own!

How to adjust for younger and older learners

Have younger children build nests using other materials, like LEGO bricks, bristle blocks, yarn, even sticks and leaves. Then talk with them about why birds choose to make their nests with sticks, leaves and their saliva.

Challenge older learners to research different types of bird nests to see how they differ and then use this technique to try to recreate as many of them as they can.