What to do if you find a bird’s nest near you

What to do if you find a bird’s nest near you

If you live in a city or suburb, it can be difficult to feel surrounded by nature. But next time you’re out, pause, look, and listen: Even in the most densely populated areas, birds are almost omnipresent. And no matter where you live, it can be a kind of magic, especially during nesting season.

“Rarely do we have the opportunity to have a front-row seat to observe a wild organism beginning its life,” says Brian Evans, a migratory bird ecologist and project manager at the Smithsonian National Zoo’s Bird Observatory. “All we need to do is start noticing it.”

But having an avian neighbor can raise a host of questions, including how best to monitor a nest, how to keep it secure and what to do if the nest is abandoned.

According to Chad Witko, senior avian biology coordinator at the National Audubon Society, the answer to most questions is usually to leave the nest alone. If you feel you need to intervene, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in your area. “[Birds] I have enough problems as it is,” he said. “It’s good to not let our good intentions do more harm.”

Here’s what else you need to know.

Even though birds are all around us, there’s a reason we don’t see nests everywhere: parents try to build nests in secret. These hidden habitats provide the best chance of survival for their eggs and young during the nesting season, which for many species begins around April. “It’s a very dangerous time of year for birds,” Witko said. “Parents do everything they can to protect their children. »

But there are a few signs that a bird might be nesting nearby. Watch out for agitated adults, who may begin vocalizing more aggressively if you stand near their nest. Adult birds making frequent trips to and from a specific location, especially with food in their beaks, is also a telltale sign that they are feeding their young, Witko says.

If you spot a nest from afar, try to leave it alone. Checking in too frequently or obviously can attract the attention of predators (more on this below). Instead, consider looking from a distance with a pair of binoculars.

What to do if the nest is in a dangerous place?

Sometimes nests are too easy to spot, like when a bird has made one above your garage or front door, or even in a corner of your car (like between the door and the rearview mirror). . First, think about ways to avoid the nest: does your home have another entry point? Can you park on the street for a while? If there’s a nest in your flowerpot, it’s time to accept that your geraniums may have to go about four weeks without watering – about the time it takes for the eggs to incubate and the young to fly away, according to Witko.

Depending on the time of the nesting cycle, mom and dad birds may abandon their nest if disturbed by nearby humans. Additionally, with few exceptions for non-native species, moving a nest is illegal in the United States under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

If avoiding a nest is not possible (there is no alternative entrance to your home or the nest is in your mailbox, for example), call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. They probably won’t move the nest very far – just a few meters, which will prevent the adults from abandoning it.

How to protect a nest from predators?

The most common nest predators are snakes, rodents and other birds. But just like nesting birds, many predators are protected, so don’t harm them to protect the babies.

Birds like jays and crows know that observing human activity can lead them to their next meal. That’s why, Witko says, he was asked during his field research to pretend to look for nests in the wrong places and cover his tracks after locating an actual nest. If you have a nest near you, you should also avoid going directly to it and inadvertently warning nearby predators.

Another big challenge for nesting birds, hatchlings and chicks: pets. Keep cats indoors and supervise dogs outside if a known nest is nearby. To avoid attracting predators like chipmunks, raccoons and other rodents, bring food and food scraps indoors.

If you have a nest box, adding a baffle can keep predators out (if you don’t have a nest box, read on!). Make sure your nest box doesn’t have a perch or stake directly below the entrance: birds don’t use them, but they provide a great place for predators to hang on when eating their birds. eggs.

What else can I do to keep a nest safe?

If you know you have a nest, the easiest way to help is simply to be considerate. Be careful when blowing leaves, for example, or doing other yard work that could damage nests or dislocate young birds.

“I have a blackbird nest in front of my house, in a completely unruly shrub,” says Evans. “I procrastinated too long before cutting down my shrub, and it’s disappointing. But now I’ll probably have to wait until July to cut it down, because it’s really easy to destroy a nest that way.

He also recommends avoiding pesticides or reducing their use during nesting season. “A healthy bird community really starts with a healthy insect community,” says Evans.

What happens if I see a baby bird outside its nest?

First, identify whether the bird is a baby bird or fledgling. The chicks are about the size of their eggs, usually featherless and often pink, and they sometimes have closed eyes (they can look like “little aliens,” according to Witko). Baby birds usually have a few feathers and can jump on their own. “It’s the difference between a newborn who is very helpless and a young child who can move around but still needs mom and dad,” Witko says.

If you’ve identified the latter, don’t move the youngster: its parent is likely nearby, feeding it and observing it from afar as it learns to navigate its world. If the youngster is injured (its feathers appear wet and matted, there is an open wound, or flies are present), contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

But if it is a newborn, try to locate the nest and carefully replace the young bird; it may have been accidentally thrown by an adult bird or blown away by a strong wind. And don’t worry that your “smell will keep the parents away.” According to Witko, this is a common misconception. If you can’t find the nest, make a makeshift one from a discarded box or container, monitor the bird for about an hour, and call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator if its parent doesn’t return. not.

What if the nest is abandoned?

Even for experts, it can sometimes be difficult to know if a nest is truly abandoned. In early spring, birds may start building a nest on a warm day, stop during a cold front, then return to building a few days later, according to Robyn Bailey, NestWatch project manager at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Then there are songbirds, which only begin incubating their eggs after they have laid them all, leading to a few days where eggs are present but adults are not. There is also a possibility: the adults are absent when you check the nest, but they are still caring for their eggs or young.

To determine if a nest is truly abandoned, call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Never try to handle eggs yourself, take young birds into your home, or try to feed them: different species have different diets, and feeding a bird the wrong one could kill it.

How can I encourage birds to nest near me?

First, if you or a neighbor has outside cats, or if there are stray cats in your area, don’t try to attract birds. Otherwise, consider growing native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers that provide food and shelter for birds (the National Audubon Society has a database to help you choose bird-friendly plants for your area ).

You can also use bird feeders, but be sure to place them within three feet of your house so that birds don’t have enough space to reach the dangerous speeds that lead to crashing into windows.

Less yard work might drive neighbors crazy, but birds benefit from unraked leaves and fallen branches, which can enrich the soil and provide feeding grounds and nesting materials.

How can I discourage nesting in a high traffic area?

Once a nest is built, it is illegal to remove it. But if you catch a bird starting to nest, say above your front door and that’s the only entrance to your house, you can remove the nest materials as soon as you notice it.

You can also avoid encouraging nesting in undesirable locations by providing better alternatives. If you see birds nesting between ledges, columns or crevices in your home every year, hang a nest box nearby, says Bailey.

“If you make an artificial platform or even an L-shaped piece of wood and place it a little further from the front door, they will often be attracted to that and move away,” she says .

Can observing a nest in my garden be… a science?

Yes! Ornithologists increasingly rely on collecting data from amateurs to track trends in migration, breeding and the impacts of climate change. Major programs include Cornell’s NestWatch, led by Bailey. Participants can sign up, receive quick virtual training, then monitor nearby nests and record data on the breeding cycle. The program, now available online and with a mobile app, has been running for more than 50 years and welcomes approximately 3,000 participants per year.

There are also neighborhood programs that observe native birds. Washingtonians can participate in the Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch, which tracks birds from youth to adulthood. “That’s how we discovered that cats were taking a large portion of our bird population,” says Evans. “The role of the public in making these observations is crucial. »



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