How to Approach an Active Bird Nest

It’s important to know how to approach an active bird nest because if done improperly the tenants could be harmed. Here are suggestions on how to do it.

#1. Don’t be Sneaky

Do not sneak up on the nesting box. Make your presence known as you approach by saying something aloud. My go to is, “Sorry to disturb you friends. I’m here to check your nest.” Whatever works — avoid pishing.

#2. Tap, Tap, Tap

Next, give a gentle tap, tap, tap on the box. This will give a brooding parent time to flee if it chooses to do so.

Female Eastern bluebird Peeking Out. Image Credit: Animal Perspectives.

#3. Observe and Record

Once you’ve done this, it is safe to carefully open the box for a peek. If you are participating in NestWatch, take your counts and make your observations, then move on.

#4. Moving Along

When you move on, if possible, do not leave the same way you came. This will help to avoid drawing attention to the nesting box. Drawing too much attention to the nesting box can tip off predators to an easy meal.

Five Eastern Bluebirds Near Fledging. Image Credit: Animal Perspectives.

#5. 30 Seconds or Less

As a general rule of thumb, do not spend more than 30 seconds at a nesting box, including any photos you might want to take. Of course, this doesn’t apply to professionals conducting research — that’s another post!

(Note: If you are planning to take a photo, make sure you’re set up for it first, at a distance and before approaching. Remember, 30 seconds or less.)

How to Approach an Active Non-Cavity Nest

It’s important to know how to approach an active non-cavity nest because if done without care, its residents could be put in jeopardy.

Resist Temptation

It is tempting to get up close and personal when you spot an active bird nest in the wild, but don’t do it. Resist temptation and maintain your distance. Getting too close could cause the following to happen.

  • A brooding parent might flee, leaving the eggs unattended when they need to be incubated.
  • If the parent flees the nest could become subject to predation.
  • You might leave a trail for predators to follow.
Tree Swallow Nest Ruined by Predator. Image Credit: Animal Perspectives.

It might be impossible to avoid getting too close to a bird’s nest. For example, if you have a bird nest right over your front door, or in your garage, etc. These are unavoidable situations. But if given the choice to disrupt the natural course of a nesting bird’s life cycle, do your best to maintain a safe distance.

Why are these suggestions the opposite of what has been suggested for nesting boxes?

Nesting boxes are different for these two reasons: 1.) Nesting boxes have predator guards (or should) which decrease the chances of predation; 2.) Participating in Citizen Science requires nesting box monitors to perform certain duties, such as counting and observing nests.

Navigating the right way to engage with wild birds can be tricky, so please get in touch with any questions that you might have.

The Bottom Line

It’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s not about us. It’s all about the birds and we have an obligation to protect these winged wonders.

Here are two ways to get involved

5 Ways to Enjoy Birds in the Wild

Nesting Season Part I: NestWatch is On!

Don’t forget to follow Animal Perspectives on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Also read…

3 Tips for Successful Nest Monitoring

Nesting Season Part III: The Right Box for You

Wordless Wednesday: Black-Crowned Night Heron

Where the Screech Owl Wasn’t

List: The 16 Dos and Don’ts of Managing Your Nesting Boxes

5 Birds to Know in the Northeast this Spring

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