Birds Nest Fungi

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Non Edible Mushrooms, Pacific Northwest

Birds Nest Fungi, Vancouver Island, BC
Birds Nest Fungi, Photo By Bud Logan

Birds Nest Fungi are a small group of saprophytic fungi that have a unique way of reproducing. As their common name suggests they look like small bird’s nests complete with eggs. In fact, the nest is a splash cup which is light to dark brown, green or white on the outside and white, grey or brown on the inside, depending on the species.

Birds Nest Fungi
Birds Nest Fungi, Photo By Bud Logan

With smooth flaring sides between up to 10 mm in diameter and up to 20 mm in height, again depending on the species. Immature bird nest have a cap over the top of the splash cup to protect the eggs, which brakes away at maturity.

The eggs are small capsules which contain the spores. These capsules are lens shaped shiny white, black, grey or dark brown in color.  As bird’s nest fungi are saprophytes and thus decomposers of organic material, they are found most often on decaying wood, small twigs, tree fern debris and sometimes on animal scat.

The Birds Nest fungi use the hydraulic pressure of water to disperse their capsules. This is achieved by rainwater or water dripping off foliage above, dripping into the splash cup.

This cup is the right shape and size that when the water hits the bottom of the cup it splashes out with enough force to disperse the capsules up to a meter away. When the capsules land on a solid object, like a leaf or twig they stick to it, then grow into a new mushroom.

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