Hummingbirds prefer to build their nests with spore-bearing ferns, and mosses. This is helpful for the reproduction of the ferns, which are then better able to spread their seeds. But how is this beneficial for hummingbirds? Building in this manner is more difficult and energy-consuming.

Do live ferns make for better building materials? Is there a scent that these ferns are giving off to attract the hummingbirds? What kinds of research exist on this question?


Carl Zimmer's National Geographic article, "A Living Nest?" (Feb 4, 2014) http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2014/02/04/a-living-nest/

Question by Twitter-user Jessica: @LadyJaya

  • $\begingroup$ A wild guess: Where living ferns and mosses thrive it is a damp environment. In a damp environment, dead plant material would start rotting fast. Thus, using living plants guarantees a more durable nest. $\endgroup$
    – skymningen
    Feb 5, 2014 at 8:05

1 Answer 1


From the article titled "Evidence of mutualistic synzoochory between cryptogams and hummingbirds", the specific advantage for the hummingbird is that it gets good nest building material through the selection of cryptograms. The cryptograms though have its seeds dispersed over large distances by birds which is a process called synzoochory.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Great answer / citation! I might rephrase as "the specific advantage given for the hummingbird is good nest building material" - it seems unlikely the authors would call it a mutualism unless they believed that there was a real benefit to both. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2014 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Oreotrephes You are right.. I'll edit it. $\endgroup$ Jul 4, 2014 at 6:01

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