A Stick-y Home for Birds

Here's your nightly math! Just 5 quick minutes of number fun for kids and parents at home. Read a cool fun fact, followed by math riddles at different levels so everyone can jump in. Your kids will love you for it.

A Stick-y Home for Birds

December 21, 2015

Animals need nice cozy homes just like we do — and they have to work hard to build them. So our friend Sophie O. asked us, how many twigs are in a bird’s nest? That’s a great question, since there are so many kinds of bird nests. There are “scrape nests,” where birds dig a hole in the dirt; “mound nests,” where they push together a pile of dirt…obviously those have zero sticks. What we’re talking about here is “cup and saucer” nests, the bowl-shaped nests made of sticks. An eagle nest runs up to 5 feet wide and 4 feet deep, which is huge. But let’s stick with our everyday robin’s nest, which is just a few inches wide. One website tells us that a robin needs to gather about 350 twigs and blades of dried grass, then weaves all those pieces those together. If that sounds like a lot of work, imagine how that eagle feels.

Wee ones: If the nest needs to hold the mommy robin, the daddy robin and 3 babies, how many birds is that?

Little kids: If the robins start building on a Tuesday and finish 3 days later, when do they have their nest?  Bonus: If the robin can fly with 9 twigs in its claws and another 5 twigs in its beak, how many can it carry at once?

Big kids: If the robins can carry only 10 twigs at a time, how many trips will it take to collect 350?  Bonus: If each twig is 6 inches long, how long are those 350 sticks laid out end to end? (Hint if needed: A foot has 12 inches, so these are 1/2-foot long…how far would they stretch if they were each 1 foot?)




Wee ones: 5 birds.

Little kids: On Friday.  Bonus: 14 twigs.

Big kids: 35 trips.  Bonus: 175 feet!

And thank you Sophie for the awesome bird drawing, too!

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About the Author

Laura Overdeck

Laura Overdeck

Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking before she could walk, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.

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