The Bird Palaces of Old Turkey

A distinct element of Ottoman architecture in Turkey was the addition of a birdhouses attached to the outer walls of significant city structures. A safe space for birds to nest outside of mosques, inns, bridges, libraries, schools, and fountains.

Back in the Ottoman Empire, people would build elaborate miniature palaces for the birds. The birdhouses were not simple concrete structures, but rather elaborate feats of miniature architecture that ranged from one-story homes to multiple-story bird mansions. Each was designed with a similar design aesthetic to the country’s larger buildings.

The oldest one is a 16th-century bird palace that is attached the Büyükçekmece Bridge in Istanbul. But the ornate birdhouses did not only provide shelter, but they also fulfilled a religious purpose. They were thought to bring good fortune to the builders of the giants nests.

Through their abundance and care, the structures encouraged a love of animals in the Turkish public, citizens who adopted several nicknames for the homes over the years including “kuş köşkü” (bird pavilions), “güvercinlik” (dovecots) and “serçe saray” (sparrow palace).

Images by Caner Cangül  and Jeroen Apers