A bird nest can be found in a tree hole, among limbs and leaves in trees and shrubs, on the ground, and even a few underground. Out in the open in trees, shrubs, and on the ground - usually cup shape - it's referred to as "open cup".
Depending on your habitat, you can attract birds which nest in trees, shrubs, and ground vegetation into your garden.
Representative of open cup nesters:
On the ground - Canada Goose, Mallard Duck, Meadowlark, Ring-necked Pheasant, California Quail, Bobolink
In shrubs - Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird
In trees - Red-tailed Hawk, Mourning Dove, Great Horned Owl, Cedar Waxwing, Blue Jay
On a platform - A few, like the American Robin, will also use a platform on which to place its nest.
Know what birds are in the area and learn about their favored nesting habitat to understand which you're most likely to attract and how you might be able to arrange your garden. There is a lot of variation in preferred ground sites. Some birds like tall meadow grass (Bobolink) while others are satisfied with grass no taller than an un-mowed lawn (Sparrow). A Mallard will build a nest under low branches of a small tree while a Killdeer will place a bird nest totally in the open with little around it.
In providing trees and shrubs, consider that birds favor areas where lower shrub growth is found around the edges of areas with trees. The progression of lawns to high grass to taller shrubs to yet taller trees gives them the variety they prefer. The variation provides richer variation among food sources - insects, berries, sap, nuts, fruit - and nesting / shelter options.
There are some common backyard birds that are attracted to platforms on which to place a bird nest. Most notable may be the American Robin. But the Barn Swallow and Eastern Phoebe and a few others can also be lured to your garden if you provide these.
Consider the robin whose nest may be found not only in shrubs and trees, but also over garage and porch lamps and shelf-like projections under eaves that offer shelter. Nesting platforms are sometimes cataloged with wild bird house styles as they are man-made "buildings" for the placement of a bird nest.
As with cavity nesting birds, birds that build open-cup nests will be attracted to sites near food, water and nesting material all of which you can offer to help attract them. Depending on the species, food can be offered as natural plantings and/or feeders, water may be your pond or a bird bath, and supplemental nesting materials can be provided as bits of string and hair from your dog or cat's comb offered in a suet feeder. Tufts of wool in a wired fixture are available from wild bird supply stores and offer a water-resistant nesting material.
Enjoy your open-cup nesters!
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