DETROIT (CBS Detroit) –The Detroit Zoo has a new construction project but it’s not made by humans. The zoo’s pair of hamerkops – an African wading bird – has assembled a mansion-sized nest in the Matilda Wilson Free-Flight Aviary for all to see.
Both the male and female hamerkops spent about nine weeks building the nest, which measures to about 6 feet by 4 feet. The two birds used sticks, grass, mud, and palm fronds to create the sturdy home for their future children.
“The nest incorporates man-made objects as well as nesting material we offered the birds, including mud to line the inside of their nest,” said Detroit Zoological Society Curator of Birds Tom Schneider.
According to bird care staff, the hamerkops laid out materials around the fork of the tree then continued to build the nest foundation. They then raised the walls and used heavier sticks to create the roof and construct an opening. Finally, the hamerkops lined the interior with mud.
“For bird enthusiasts, the nest may be the perfect place to look for other bird species that have been hanging around just out of curiosity or trying to steal nesting material,” said Schneider.
In the wild, a hamerkop nest can weigh up to 200 pounds and is strong enough to support an average human. The birds show a generous spirit by building numerous nests as refuge for other birds even though the hamerkop only uses one.
The hamerkop (Scopus umbretta) is a long-legged wading bird that stands about 22 inches tall. It has sepia-brown plumage with an iridescent purple gloss on the back and darker brown bars on the tail. The female lays three to six eggs at a time then incubates the eggs for 30 days. After the birds hatch, it develops for 45 days and then starts to fledge.
Detroit Zoo guests can see the hamerkop nest in the Free-Flight Aviary during regular Zoo hours. Be sure to look up or you’ll miss it. Free-Flight Aviary is located in the Wildlife Interpretive Gallery which is home to 30 species of birds that are free to fly, walk, or swim among the of natural tropical plants in a warm, inviting climate.