Jul 18, 2018 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, June 2018

Dear Birdsquatch: Is It OK to Check Bird Nests?

Visiting the nests that are in your baffled nest boxes during the early and middle stages of nesting is okay. Visiting the nests of cup-nesting birds or ground-nesting birds (not in boxes) is almost always a no-no.
Share:

Dear Birdsquatch:

I want to be a good landlord to my nesting birds. Is it OK to check on the progress of the nests or will I disturb the birds?

—Steve F., Rochester, New York

Dear Steve,

Great question for this time of year! The answer really depends on the nest and species and setting. The short answer is: Visiting the nests that are in your baffled nest boxes during the early and middle stages of nesting is okay. Visiting the nests of cup-nesting birds or ground-nesting birds (not in boxes) is almost always a no-no. The exception might be if you have a robin's nest just outside your window, or a wren nest in your front porch hanging basket. In other words, somewhere where you can see into the nest without disturbing the area around it.

But you know I can't resist the longer version of this answer...

As a sasquatch, I am part of the natural environment and my fellow creatures are used to me, so, if I wanted to, I could sneak up on birds and their nests with no problem. I look like just another large hairy part of the landscape. I smell like the woods. I don't eat meat, so birds don't flee from me like they do from most bird predators. But that's not true for humans. You guys often smell like Old Spice or Chanel No. 5 or McDonald's or a venti, half-caf chai latte, and you don't usually fit seamlessly me for saying so, but, when humans pass through a habitat, they leave a tell-tale smell trail (say that five times fast!) that predators, such as snakes, raccoons, skunks, opossums, weasels, foxes, coyotes, and domestic cats and dogs, can follow to a tasty treat. In your backyards—and even on your decks, patios, and porches—a human scent trail quite often leads a discerning nose right to a tasty meal of pet food, compost, garbage, or bird seed. For this reason, I always discourage birders and naturalists from looking for or visiting bird nests that are located in natural settings during the breeding season. It's perfectly fine to come back to visit the nest in autumn after the nest has been abandoned. During the nesting months (March through September, in general) appreciate the birds and their nests from afar.

If you have a nest box or several, it's perfectly acceptable—even helpful—to visit during the breeding season to monitor activity. It's important, however, that your nest boxes be protected from climbing predators by being mounted on a pole that has a predator baffle installed beneath the nest box. This prevents predator access to the box and its contents and helps to ensure that your birds have the best chance at a successful nesting season. You can see the plans for a nest box pole and predator baffle on the Bird Watcher's Digest website.



About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.


New On This Site

The Latest Comments

  • I am excited to have my daughter’s tree this year, since my landlord has removed the lovely yew next to my patio, which was the only shelter for birds at my feeder.
    by pmalcpoet, Mon, 20 Dec 2021
  • Goldfinches will continue as long as Swiss chard is available. I'm watching one eating chard right now (mid-November in Vermont).
    by Brian Tremback, Sun, 14 Nov 2021
  • Birds are on the decline though sunflowers are rarely touched and for weeks hardly .eaten. I'll try a few sparing nuts on the table and a fat ball broken for jackdaws and tits but mealworms were a summer favourite being my go to choice
    by Paul Harabaras, Thu, 04 Nov 2021
  • I’ve been enjoying goldfinches eating coneflower/ echinacea seeds in my new pollinator garden! I will leave the plants out all winter for them if the seeds keep that long? Or should I deadhead and put them in a dry area? Im in CT and thought they migrated, but didn’t know they put in winter coats! What do they eat in winter without bird feeders?
    by Anne Sheffield, Sat, 04 Sep 2021
  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021