Question of the Week
Q. There's a bird nesting near my house. What should I do?
A. In general, the best thing you can do for a bird nesting near a human dwelling is to try to minimize the disturbance—stay at a respectful distance, minimize foot traffic, door openings/closings, and postpone and projects or construction slated for the area.
If a bird is nesting in an inconvenient place on your property, the good news is that the nesting period is not forever, and in some species may only be matter of weeks. The nesting cycle for most songbirds, robins included, is around 4 weeks from egg laying to chicks leaving the nest (two weeks of incubation, two weeks of nestlings). Try not to use the area around the nest until the young have fledged to ensure that the parents will not abandon their nest. If this is not possible, try to minimize your presence around the nest; many yard birds are tolerant of occasional disturbances.
We don't recommend that you move the nest; Birds will often abandon their nest if it is moved. Only in extreme circumstances should you consider relocating a nest, and if you do, it must be replaced very close, within a few feet of the original location. Once relocated, watch and make sure the parents are returning. If the parents do not return, contact a wildlife rehabilitator.
Some people choose to put up feeders or leave mealworms around to try to provide an additional food source for birds nesting nearby, but this is not necessary for the nest to be successful.
If you are enjoying observing a nearby nest, and would like to go a step further and collect data for science about the nesting behavior, please consider joining NestWatch. All About Birds is an excellent resource for finding out information about birds in general and about incubation and fledging times for individual species.
Past Questions of the Week
Q. I’m getting married next month. Is it true that rice causes birds’ stomachs to explode?
Q. What's good nesting material to offer birds?
Q. What is a “Big Day”?
Q. How can I keep birds from hitting my windows?
Q. I often see birds on telephone wires while I’m driving—how do I figure out what they are from such a short glimpse?
Q. Why do woodpeckers like to hammer on houses? And what can I do about it?
Q. I live in a high-rise apartment in the city. How can I attract birds?
Q. There's a bird in my yard I've never seen before. How can I find out what it is?
Q. I’m getting a little tired of winter—What are some of the first spring birds to arrive, and when will they get here?
Q. Why do birds have such elaborate and varied courtship rituals?
Q. How can Bald Eagles survive in northern areas after all the lakes have frozen?
Q. How long do wintering Snowy Owls stay with us before they return to their breeding grounds?
Q. Are cardinals brighter in winter?
Q. Will birds use nest boxes to roost in for warmth during the winter?
Q. There's a hummingbird at my feeder in the dead of winter. Will he be okay?
Q. Is it unusual to see American Robins in the middle of winter?
Q. How do birds survive in very cold temperatures?
Q. Why don't birds get cold feet?
Q. Do birds store food for the winter?
Q. What can you tell us about the habitat associations of partridges and in particular whether pear trees are ever involved?
Q. A hawk has started hunting the feeder birds in my yard. What can I do?
Q. How much do birds eat each day?
Q. Where did the domestic turkey come from?
Q. I thought geese migrated south in the winter and north in the summer. Why did I just see a flock of Canada Geese flying in the "wrong" direction?
Q. Why do migratory birds crash into buildings at night and how can people prevent it from happening?
Q. Where can I go to watch hawk migration?
Q. How do birds prepare for long migrations?
Q. Should I stop feeding birds in fall so they can start their migration?
Q. What is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act?
Q. I’m seeing fewer birds in my yard. Is something affecting their populations?
Q. I found a baby bird. What should I do?
Q. I found a nest near my house and want to observe it but I am worried about disturbing it. Can you give me any advice?
Q. Sometimes I see little birds going after a big bird. Why do they do this?
Q. My feeders are being overrun with pigeons and blackbirds who eat all the food and keep the smaller birds away. What can I do?
Q. How can I share my bird photos with the Lab?
Q. How do I keep the squirrels in my yard away from my feeders and bird seed?
Q. Where can I go to watch hawk migration?
Q. Should I stop feeding hummingbirds in the fall so that they will migrate?
Q. After birds leave a nest, can I clean out the nest for future use?