Most of us live in places where there are dozens or even hundreds of species of birds.
Each and every bird is a unique creature of nature.
If you keep a healthy lawn, there will inevitably be some bird that builds its nest in inconvenient place. It could be a gutter, a windowsill, your chimney, or some other inconvenient location.
You may be tempted to remove nests in inconvenient places, but that can do more harm than you know.
Most of the time, the best thing to do with a bird’s nest in an inconvenient place is just to leave it alone.
Don’t move the nest until the birds are finished using it. If you do, you may have a bigger problem.
Birds will often abandon their nests, their eggs (and even their hatchlings) if their nests are disturbed.
They leave behind a nest that may be filled with excrement, bacteria, insects, and parasites that can be harmful to pets and people.
And you may find that unprotected chicks attract predators that become a threat to your pets.
There’s a Law That Applies to Moving Birds’ Nests
When is it OK to remove the nest of a problem bird? There is a simple rule:
If a bird migrates, it is protected. You cannot lawfully move or destroy the nest or eggs of a migrating bird.
You can “control” problem birds like pigeons, European starlings, and house sparrows.
You can also remove a nest if it has been abandoned.
Also read: 14 Florida Migratory Birds (with Images)
Let’s look at these two exceptions.
Some Birds Are Not Protected by Law
There are birds that are not protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the United States and Canada.
These unprotected birds include European starlings, house sparrows, and pigeons.
You want to be sure you are correctly identifying these birds before you move or destroy their nests.
European starlings are short-tailed black birds. The adults are about 8 inches (20 cm) long, and weigh about 3 ounces (85 grams).
Their feathers change color with the seasons. In the summer, their feathers are glossy black with white specks.
During the winter, these birds have large speckles. This makes them look brown from a distance.
Both males and females have pinkish-red feet and legs.
You want to avoid misidentifying red-winged blackbirds and grackles as European starlings since both species are protected,
House sparrows are the smallest bids that are excluded from protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Adult house sparrows are just 6-1/2 inches (16 cm) long, and they weigh about an ounce (30 grams).
Both males and females have black beaks and brown feathers with black streaks on their backs, and gray feathers on their breasts.
Males have a black streak with white spots across the throat when they reach maturity, but they look like females until they are sexually mature,
It is important not to mistake song sparrows, chipping sparrows,or grasshopper sparrows for house sparrows. These species are useful, and they are protected by law.
Pigeons, also known as rock doves, are the largest of the three unprotected species.
They grow as long as 12 to 17 inches (30 to 43 cm), and weigh up to about a pound (450 grams).
Usually, pigeons are blue-gray with two black bands on their wings, plus a black band on the tail that extends to their white rump.
However, pigeons can range from all-white to sooty black. It is important not to confuse them with the protected mourning dove.
All three of these birds lay multiple eggs multiple times per year. Starlings lay 4 to 6 eggs in each clutch and may raise two broods a year. House sparrows lay 3 to 9 eggs per clutch and may also raise two broods per year. Pigeons mate continuously, laying two eggs at a time five or six times a year. If you don’t control these birds, they may push other species of birds out of your landscape.
You Can Also Remove a Nest That Has Been Abandoned
There is another situation in which you can remove the nest of any migrating bird. You can remove a nest if it has been abandoned.
Here’s how you can tell if birds have abandoned their nest.
Nesting Season Is Over
When birds have finished raising their chicks and flown off for their seasonal migration, you can remove their nests.
They can build another nest in another location next year.
You Find Broken Eggs and Dead Chicks in the Nest
When you find a nest without a mother bird, and the eggs are broken, or the chicks are dead, it is safe to assume it was attacked by a predator.
You can remove nests if the birds have been attacked.
Some big birds, such as emus, ostriches, and pelicans, lay their eggs in a scrape.
Gulls and terns lay their eggs on the ground.
Large birds can usually defend their eggs against predators, but when they lose the fight, you can legally and in good conscience pick up the pieces.
You Find Cold Eggs in the Nest
Birds of all kinds keep their eggs warm so the chick inside can develop. Most eggs need constant warmth of 84.5° to 104.9° F (35° to 40.5° C).
The developing chick doesn’t suffer any damage if the sitting parent goes away for up to half an hour, but if the parent is gone for more than two or three hours, the egg will get cold. It may not hatch.
You can remove nests that contain cold eggs and aren’t being watched by a parent bird.
But don’t remove them until they have been cold for 24 hours.
You Won’t See Birds Flying Back and Forth to an Abandoned Nest
You will see a lot of activity when birds are building their nests.
If you don’t see any birds in or traveling to and from a nest for five days, you can assume the nest has been abandoned.
Sometimes, the “abandoned” nest was actually built as a decoy.
For Some Birds, Abandoning Nests Is Normal
Most birds build just one nest for every breeding season, or even reuse nests they built in prior years, but some birds abandon their nests after raising just one brood of chicks.
- American robins build as many as four or five nests for each breeding season. They may build a new nest on top of their old nest, but they build a new nest for every new clutch of eggs.
- Carolina wrens spend about a week building their first nest of the season. Then the mated pair build second, third, and sometimes even fourth nests, needing just four days to build a nest once they learn how to work with each other.
- If you live in the UK, you might find multiple nests built by a Kentish plover. These crafty birds build decoy nests to protect their eggs and their hatchlings from predators..
- Male marsh wrens return early in the spring to build multiple decoy nests in cattails in the marshes where they raise their young. These decoy nests are carried higher as the cattails get taller during the growing season, while the real nest will be at ground level.
There are also some birds that just like to build nests.
As domestic birds, emus are not covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but scientists have observed them building as many as 18 nests and decoy nests in a single year.
You Hear a Lot of Chirping, But You Don’t See Any Adult Birds
Birds feeding their young may make as many as 100 trips to find food every day. Their chicks will call out to be fed constantly, but accidents can happen.
Baby birds may starve in just a day, small birds like baby hummingbirds in just a few hours.
If you don’t see parents coming back from foraging food, you can assume something is very wrong. After 24 hours, you can assume the nest has been abandoned.
Also read: What to Do if You Find a Baby Bird?
You Find Starving Chicks Covered with Mites and Ticks
Birds that build their nests in tall grass often have nests filled with mites and ticks.
These pests may attack baby birds, and the mother may abandon them so she can try again to build another nest in another location before laying a new clutch of eggs.
If the parasite infestation is severe, the mother will try to save herself.
Unfortunately, there will be nothing you can do to help the baby birds, although your local wildlife rescue organization may be able to intervene.
Signs a Nest Has Not Been Abandoned
There are also some reliable signs a nest has not been abandoned,
- If there are lots of birds singing and gathering nesting materials around a nest, it has not been abandoned.
- To test whether an egg is really cold, you pick it up and feel it. If the mother or father bird attacks you when they see you handling their eggs, you can know that they have not abandoned their nest!
You usually won’t, of course, find abandoned nests built by these or by any other birds that have warm eggs in them.
But if there aren’t any eggs in a nest, and you don’t see any birds in the nest at all for five days, you can remove the nest.
And even if you find eggs in the nest of European starlings, house sparrows, or pigeons, you are free to remove them.
However, even these birds deserve humane treatment.
Humane Removal of Nests of Non-Protected Birds with Eggs in Them
The first thing you need to consider about moving nests of pigeons, house sparrows, and European starlings is that they are not especially fastidious birds.
Their nests may be filled with bird poop and decaying food. You want to wear gloves and long sleeves when you handle the nest.
Place any nest containing eggs gently into a cardboard or wooden box. Then relocate the box to the location where you want the nest.
Don’t try to give the nest a “natural” placement. Just place the nest where even the young nuisance birds will not meet a cruel fate after an encounter with your cat or wild animal.
Two Tips for Dealing with Other Problem Birds
Here are two suggestions to consider when you are dealing with problem birds.
- If the bird is just a nuisance, consider waiting it out. You may have to put up with extra poop or chirping hatchlings for a few weeks, but many birds leave on their own when they have pushed their young out of the nest.
- If there is a particular kind of bird you don’t want on your property, try removing its food source. Alternatively, provide more food for a kind of bird you like better.
Also read: 10 Birds That Build Mud Nests (with Images)
Frequently Asked Questions About Moving Bird Nests
Who to call to move a bird’s nest?
Wildlife rescue organizations can remove songbirds.
Pest control specialists can remove pigeons, house sparrows, and European starlings.
Can birds move their own nest?
There are no birds that can pick up and move an entire nest.
They may scavenge an old nest for materials to build a new one, but they won’t do this if they have eggs or chicks in the old nest.
There was a storm, and a bird’s nest crashed to the ground. Is It OK to move the nest?
If you choose to try do-it-yourself rescue work, put on gloves and collect as much of the nest as possible.
Put it in a Tupperware container, and then place the Tupperware container where the parents can find their eggs or chicks and easily fly back and forth to feed them.
Sometimes, the parents will decide to try to raise the chicks even if their nest has been moved but be prepared for the possibility that the parents may abandon the nest.
What can we do when birds build their nest in a wreath on my door?
It’s always inconvenient when a bird builds a nest in a high-traffic location.
However, if the bird is a protected migratory bird, you must leave the nest on your door until the bird leaves naturally.
Your local wildlife rescue center may be able to relocate the bird. You can, however, lawfully remove pigeons, house sparrows, and European starling nests from a wreath on your door.
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