Make Sure Your New Bird House Isn’t Occupied

If we had a nickel for every time someone has called us because they bought a nest box and brought it home and realized there were already eggs in it, we’d have two nickels. Which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice.

If we’ve gotten two of these calls and we’re just one of hundreds of rehabilitation facilities in the country, this probably isn’t that uncommon of an occurrence. A lot of plant nurseries and home and garden stores sell nest boxes in outdoor areas, where cavity-nesting birds looking for a safe place to lay eggs might decide to use them.

If you’ve already taken a nest box home, things aren’t optimistic for the unhatched babies inside the eggs. Being tossed into a shopping bag and rolling around in a car can easily kill the young inside the eggs. And, while it’s a myth that bird parents will abandon their eggs or babies because of human smells, the parents may give up the search for their eggs by the time the nest box gets returned to the store and put back where it was found.

Please do this one tiny thing that may save a bird family. Before you buy a bird house, peek inside. If you see a nest being built, one or more eggs, or live baby birds, please leave it exactly where it is and pick a different nest box instead. Let a staff member at the store or nursery know that the box is occupied.

If you want to go the extra mile, gently remind the staff member that it is illegal to intentionally harm migratory birds or their eggs or active nests, and urge them to put a “do not disturb” sticky note and to leave the nest box exactly where it is. (The parents will almost definitely lose track of the nest if the box is moved, since nest cavities are never moved in a nature.)

And of course, if YOU work at a store or nursery that sells nest boxes, you can be the most helpful of all, by checking the bird houses that are for sale and protecting any that might end up occupied. People love supporting businesses that care about wildlife!

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