Animals Nature

Learning From Nature: Amazing Structures Built By Animals

The mother nature abounds with many talented architects. These feats of animal kingdom ingenuity will blow your mind—and perhaps inspire you to get up off that couch.

Weaver Birds

Weaver birds build exquisite and elaborate nest structures that are a rival to any human feat of engineering. Some of these nests are the largest structures to be built by birds.

A large nest structure of the Sociable Weaver (Philetairus socius) in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa (Image Source)

Weaver bird nests are extraordinary structures. Most individual nests are cylindrical in shape, with downward-facing, narrow entrances that are usually situated over or next to water.

Ensuring that the entrance faces downwards and is as narrow as possible deters thieves and potential predators. Some nests even have a long tube, extending the entrance further beneath the nest body.

The males are the main weavers, leaving the females with the responsibility of selecting their breeding-partner. They do this based on the location, design and relative comfort of the nest which ensures the good genetic quality for the father of her offspring alongside a safe home for her eggs.


Termites are tiny insects, but they are capable of moving tons of soil to build giant nests. Photo © Jared Belson (Image Source)

While some termites live in the wood of our homes, others build their own houses, some of the most impressive structures in the animal world. Their mounds are forever-evolving cities, made from the simplest materials. Working independently, without any coordinator or blueprint to reference, they construct temperature-controlled environments that include elaborate ventilation and cooling systems, and specialized chambers that store food, contain fungal gardens, hold eggs, and house the egg-producing queen. As a colony, they are able to create worlds that far exceed their individual capabilities.

Rufous Hornero

Rufous Hornero's completed nest (Image Source)

The Rufous Hornero in South America is an ovenbird, so nicknamed because of how it makes its nest. The bird collects mud and manure and piles it into an upside-down bowl on a tree branch. The sun bakes the mud dry, making a sturdy structure resembling a clay oven. Since the birds build a new nest for every brood, there are often several mud nests in a row on the same branch, all made by the same birds.


Beavers pod hut (Image Source)

Beavers begin constructing their homes by piling logs, sticks and shrubs around a water door, which gives them access to the river or pond. Once the walls are constructed, beavers use mud as insulation. Each year they add more sticks and mud to their home, creating a heavily fortified fortress. Walls can be 2 to 3 feet thick, providing a secure environment for those inside. When a beaver is safely tucked in his home, bears are the only natural predator strong enough to penetrate the dwelling.

Paper wasps

The distinctive shape and water-resistant properties of their nests have led paper wasps to be given the alternate name “umbrella wasp.”

Swarm of paper wasp on nest (Image Source)

To build a nest, the paper wasp queen begins by creating hexagonal-shaped chambers, or cells, each of which is designed to house eggs. A paper screen is used to cover the nest, protecting the young from predators. The nest grows as the colony expands. Nests can be found in sheltered areas, such as the eaves of a house, the branches of a tree, on the end of an open pipe, or on an old clothesline.

Coral reefs

The structural foundation of individual coral reefs is formed by a multitude of marine animals and plants through the processes of slow accumulation and deposition of calcium carbonate (limestone) extracted from seawater.

A variety of corals form an outcrop on Flynn Reef, part of the Great Barrier Reef near Cairns, Queensland, Australia. (Image Source)

While a wide variety of marine life ultimately contributes to the structural complexities of coral reefs, most of the reef’s underlying solid framework is constructed by just a few types of marine organisms.

These are the “stony” corals, and the coralline red algae that grows upon and amidst the coral colonies. After the individual organisms die, they leave behind their limestone skeletons. Over time, the accumulated and compacted minerals contained in the multitudes of these skeletal remains become the large, solid structures we call coral reefs.

The overall reef-building process is slow; coral reefs are built over decades and centuries – not weeks or months.

Featured image © Jared Belson

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