Are you one of the amazing people who helps bluebirds and other native cavity-nesting birds by providing them with nest boxes? Excellent! Please be careful so that your efforts to help dont accidentally harm.
While a lot of bird enthusiasts like to watch for signs of predators, parasites, and competitors, there can still be danger involved in checking on baby birds, especially cavity nesters, which depend on stable “indoor” temperatures. While it’s a myth that bird parents abandon their young because they smell human scents, birds so sometimes abandon a nest that has been repeatedly disturbed or is constantly being watched by humans. Who can blame them? None of us would want a giant predator coming into our babies’ nurseries every day to check on them!
Repeatedly disturbing a nest box can cause other problems as well, like chilling the baby birds and causing them to succumb to hypothermia, attracting predators to the nest, or causing baby birds to panic and leave the nest prematurely.
If you do choose to monitor a nest box, the safest way to do it is with a camera. These can cost a bit of money, of course, but can be very enjoyable and can allow you to see and photograph the bird family at any time.
If you insist on checking nest boxes the old-fashioned way, please use caution. Only open the box if is warm, dry, and quiet outside so the babies don’t become chilled. Never remove any of the nesting materials, since this can attract predators to the area and take away much-needed insulation for the baby birds. Although the parents can’t smell if you’ve touched the nest or young, it is still very scary for the little ones, so please avoid handling them.
Don’t check nest boxes more than once per day (ideally much less!) and stop checking them entirely once their bodies are covered in feathers. Opening the box or getting too close to the nest can scare the babies and force them to leave the nest before they’re fully ready.
Nest boxes are one of the kindest things you can do for birds in your neighborhood! Please be careful so your help doesn’t hurt!