Get Ready for Baby Birds! 7 Tips for a Successful Nesting Season

Make way for nestlings! Springtime means baby birds. Learn how you can prepare your yard for nesting season.

There’s something so thrilling about finding a nest with baby birds right in your own garden. It tells you that you’ve been successful in creating a space where birds feel safe and find the resources they need to raise a family. Plus, it gives you the chance to observe the nesting process from start to finish, and that’s fascinating no matter how many times you see it.

Attracting nesting birds isn’t just a matter of luck; there are plenty of things you can do to make your yard more inviting to them. Once they arrive, it’s important to know how to protect and observe them too. We’ve rounded up 7 tips you need to know, from providing shelter to helping fallen baby birds, along with 7 baby bird photos you need to see!

Provide Lots of Shelter

With very few exceptions, most birds need sheltered locations to nest. Some prefer tree cavities, others build nests on branches or even the ground. Having plenty of trees on your property increases your chances of attracting nesting birds. You can also provide nest boxes for them. You’ll have the most success with nest boxes if you carefully consider the species you’d like to attract and choose boxes made just for them. Learn all about good nest boxes here.

Photo Credit: jhas/Pixabay

Out With the Old, In With the New

While birds may reuse nesting sites from year to year, they do need to be properly maintained. If you have nest boxes, clean them out in early spring each year to prepare for the new nesting season. Remove any old nest material and check to see if the box had other residents, like mice, during the winter. If so, give the box a good wash with soapy water, rinse it well, and leave it out in the sun to dry.

Help birds prepare for the new nesting season by putting out materials they’ll need to build their nests. Bits of yarn or twine, hair, cotton, straw and other natural materials are ideal.

Photo Credit: Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay

Protect Them From Predators

Predators are an enormous threat to nesting birds. Ensure your yard provides plenty of cover in the form of shrubs, trees, and tall grasses – places where birds can hide. (Thorny bushes are especially great cover.) Choose nesting boxes without perches, as these make it easier for predators to get into the boxes. Keep cats indoors, as they are voracious killers of birds at all seasons.

Photo Credit: Mariamichelle/Pixabay

Grow Natural Food Sources

Strange as it may seem, some birds are actually less likely to visit your feeders during nesting season. That’s because they need a tremendous amount of protein to stay strong and help their nestlings grow. They generally get that protein from insects. So add plenty of native plants to your yard to attract beneficial bugs, and avoid pesticides whenever possible. While you’re at it, plant natives that provide lots of seeds and berries, and you’ll have a bird buffet that goes way beyond feeders.

Photo Credit: Ryk Naves/Unsplash

Observe Nests Safely

Once you’ve attracted nesting birds to your yard, of course you’ll want to check out all the action. But it’s important to do this in a way that’s safe for the birds, and legal for you. Try to visit the nests only during the middle of the day, and limit your visits. Your activity can alert predators to the nest’s presence. (Want to feel like a real scientist? Install your own nest cam!)

In general, look but don’t touch. Nearly all birds are protected by the International Migratory Birds act, which makes it illegal to disturb or handle active nests. Don’t try to move a nest, even if it’s in an inconvenient spot. Get more details on safely observing nesting birds here.

Photo Credit: skeeze/Pixabay

Know When to Help

What if you see a baby bird that’s fallen from the nest? This can be tricky, since our first instinct is to help. But it’s important to consider a few things first.

Is the baby very young, with few or no feathers and unopened eyes? If you can find the nest, place the baby back in it. Contrary to popular belief, the parents will not abandon it due to your smell.

Is the baby older, with feathers? If it’s uninjured and not threatened by predators, leave it where it is. This is a fledgling, and it’s doing what it’s supposed to do. If it is threatened by predators, you can carefully move it somewhere more protected.

If the bird is injured, do not attempt to care for it yourself. This is illegal. Contact a licensed wildlife rehab center immediately.

Photo Credit: CorrieMiracle/Pixabay

Join NestWatch to Report Your Nesting Birds

Help scientists learn more about nesting birds and their behavior by signing up for the NestWatch program from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Get certified and then monitor and report on nests in your yard or anywhere nearby. The website offers plenty of great resources on birds and their nests, and your data will help monitor the health of bird populations around the globe. Visit NestWatch here.

Photo Credit: oudba_msi/Pixabay

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.