A bird's nest is an architectural marvel of nature, a stable, perfectly-shaped, comfortable, beak-built and scavenged domicile for raising young that excels in both form and function. Nests make wonderful decor, but you shouldn't collect them from bushes or trees because some birds will rebuild or re-use a nest -- or may not have occupied a found nest yet -- and you could disrupt the breeding process. A found nest, fallen from its perch, poses different hazards. It might be infested with lice or other nasty bugs you don't want in your house or even on your porch. Buy or make decorative nests for spring decor or party centerpieces. You and your young helpers can twist together a rough but realistic nest from materials you find on a walk in the woods or around the yard.
Build Like a Bird
Gather grasses -- dried or green but mostly dried -- that are at least 12 inches long. The longer the grasses, the larger your nest. Twist a generous handful of grasses into a horseshoe shape to see how well the fibers bend. If they pass the test, keep bending to form a circle and begin to weave the ends closed with your fingers. This is really just a variation of what birds do with their beaks, but your opposable thumbs will help you to twist the grasses together and over and under each other so they stick together. Use florist's wire if you can't get the circle to hold. Build up the sides with more twisted grasses until you have a shallow bowl with ragged ends sticking out here and there. Fold and tuck those ends into the center and around each other to form the bottom of the bowl. "Feather" the nest with a circle of soft, fine grasses, twisted into a circle in the center of the bowl and tamped down. Set the nest in a bare branch secured in a glass jug or upside-down flowerpot in the middle of a party table or on the mantel. Fill it with a couple of blown quail eggs or a single colored marble egg.
Fake It 'Til You Make It
Get out your glue gun and the florist's moss and make a nest that will be the envy of the backyard birds. Determine a location for your nest and build it to suit the lot. If it's going on a tripod stand in the center of the table, find a bowl that will sit comfortably in that stand. If it's sitting on the porch in an abandoned terra-cotta pot, size your form to fit the pot. Once you have a bowl to use as a mold, grab a piece of aluminum foil four times as large as needed to mold over the outside of the bowl. Fold the foil in even fourths and shape it to the bowl. With the glue gun, stick florist's moss all over the dome of foil and add twigs and grasses to the moss to build out the nest. Let it dry before turning it over, removing the bowl and doing the same thing on the inside. Add a few softer touches to the nest interior -- small clumps of down that escaped from your sofa pillows or comforter, a found feather, plumed pampas grass or random strips of cloth. Place the finished nest onsite filled with with wooden eggs or egg-shaped rocks, or leave it empty with an acorn or two in it, like an old nest in the forest.