Skip to main content

I found a nest with eggs in it and no adult birds seem to be attending to it. I think it’s abandoned, or I scared the parents away. What should I do?

Nest with eggs in tree.
Often parent birds are secretive when they are on the nest to avoid attracting attention from predators. Photo of a Black-headed Grosbeak nest by Paul S via Birdshare.

Birds may leave their nest if they are scared off or if they need to feed.

After they’ve been scared off, birds almost always return to their nest and resume incubating after the threat has passed.

The parents may also periodically leave the nest to feed⁠—this is especially true before all the eggs have been laid as many birds don’t start incubating their eggs until the clutch is complete, which ensures that the eggs all hatch at about the same time.

So, in most cases, the nest is fine and the adult birds will be back to incubate the eggs soon. You can keep an eye on the nest to make sure the parents return, just make sure you keep your distance from the nest as you don’t want to scare the parents away.

We don’t advise that you try to hatch the eggs yourself. A federal license is required to work with native bird species, and hatching eggs successfully can be tough; it requires a specific temperature, humidity, and turning schedule.

To learn the safest ways to monitor bird nests and avoid disturbing the birds visit NestWatch. Here you can learn more about the code of conduct for monitoring a nest, and find guidelines for nest monitoring.

The Cornell Lab

All About Birds
is a free resource

Available for everyone,
funded by donors like you

American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library