nesting boxes

Nesting Birds Are Often All Over The Yard

This time of year is prime nesting time for wild birds in many areas of the country. female bluebird on nest In the south, backyard birds might be starting their 2nd broods.  But, wherever you are, it’s likely you have nesting birds close by.

Birds are amazing at concealing their nests from predators and people.  You can walk right by a nest near your front porch in a yew bush and never notice it.  It’s often not until the fall when the leaves are gone that you notice it, and wonder: “wow, how did I not notice that?!”

Some of the most common birds to nest near our homes are cardinals, robins, the various goldfinch species, house finches, house sparrows, wrens, chickadees, mourning doves, mockingbirds, chipping sparrows, blackbirds, and catbirds to name a few.    And there may be some real unusual bird “neighbors” too.   But, how do you find them?

Really, the best way to figure out who your bird “tenants” are is just a lot of careful watching with a pair of binoculars.  If you continually see a certain bird species going in and out of a bush, there’s probably a nest there.  Or when a bird often flies out of a small tree when you walk by, carefully peer inside.  And don’t forget to look down.  Some birds like to place their nests on or close to the ground.  Examples are kildeers, Red-winged blackbirds, and Meadowlarks, (eastern and western).

A word of caution is in order here however.  Be VERY cautious about discovering bird nests.  Predators are very watchful and will look for signs of a bird nest including scents from humans close by.  So, don’t linger looking at a nest very long and don’t keep coming back to it to look.   If a nest is in a high-traffic area, try to avoid going near the nest until the young leave.  And keep your pets away if possible.

A great way to learn first-hand of how birds nest is to put out one or several nesting boxes in your yard.  The easiest birds to attract are bluebirds, chickadees, and wrens.  Make sure to get a box that can be opened for cleaning out and checking the nesting activity regularly.   You will be able to observe the whole cycle of nest building, egg laying, incubation, young rearing, and fledging.

To learn more about nesting birds in your yard and to keep track of the bird activity in your yard, consider joining Cornell’s NestWatch program.  It’s free and your data will help Cornell with research on nesting birds in North America.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology