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Nests, Hives, Burrows, and Dens: Shelter printer.gif

The past week has been one of the best in my life. Riding over the Andes Mountains has been spectacular. It seems like every bend offers something beautiful to see and something new to learn about.


These hanging nests are homes for the Yellow-Rumped Caciques (CA-seek-ees).

As we peddle, we’re always on the lookout for signs of animals. One of the easiest ways to see wildlife is to learn about their habits and homes. If you can spot an animal’s nest, burrow, cave, cocoon, or tree-hole, the chances of finding the animal who lives there is pretty good. Next time you’re outside, make and effort to look for animal shelters. You’ll be amazed at where you find them.

All animals need some sort of shelter. Some animals use shelter for protection, to avoid predators. Other animals use shelter to wait for prey to walk, slither, run, or fly by. Shelter is important for many animals to lay eggs or raise their young. Can you think of some names of different animal shelters or homes?


A termite nest this size can be home to well over one million termites.

Bird nests are some of the most interesting animal shelters in the rainforest. Different species of birds construct wildly different shelters. Parrots, toucans, macaws and owls make holes in rotted trees for shelter. Some birds build nests high up in the trees, like the harpy eagle. The oropendola and yellow-rumped caciques (CA-seek-ees) hang bag-like nests from tree limbs to avoid predators. They build the nests near wasp or bee nests, or on palm trees that have giant thorns to take advantage of the natural security. Other birds prefer to build nests closer to the ground. Mot-Mots actually build their nests in holes under the ground. And the tinamous, a quail-like bird, lays its eggs on the ground.

Insects also have some the most interesting and varied shelters. Many ants, like the leafcutter, make their home underground in deep burrows. Other species of ants, like termites, build giant nests out of mud and clay high in the treetops. Termites nest in living trees. They use the tree as a support, and then move down the tree to find their favorite food: decomposing wood on the forest floor. Some parakeets actually build their nests inside of termite nests. Once the parakeet has poked a hole in the termite nest,, the termites seal off a small section of their nest to share with the parakeet – like a rainforest apartment!


Leaf-Cutter ants dig burrows with an entrance and an exit. Some ants bring leaf bits into the entrance, and others bring soil and small rocks out the exit.

Whenever I pass by an animal’s shelter, I like to think about how the shelter was made. How does an animal’s shelter reflect that animal’s physical characteristics? What parts of their bodies do they use to construct a burrow or a nest? Where do the building materials come from? Does another animal move into the shelter after it has been abandoned?

Each animal’s shelter is a reflection of its eating habits, its size, and physical characteristics. What type of shelter do the animals in your backyard build?


I really like all the shelters that the animals have and I like all of your illustrations.

Nests because they are high up and some predators couldnt get to them.


I think a tunnel would work best because predators wouldn't be able to get into them.

I think that relationship between the bird and the termites was really cool! Let us know if you find more different animals living together like that.

What other animals have you seen along the way. Any cheetahs?

I think all animals need some kind of shelter. This way they could be protected by thier nests.

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