Do Birds Reuse Their Nests?

We asked the birding experts if birds reuse nests year after year. Learn about the nesting habits of different bird species.

barn swallow nestCourtesy Judy Mayhew
Barn swallow nest

Do birds reuse their nests? It depends on the species. In general most multi-brooded birds do not reuse the same nest because the materials are not durable enough to last through more than one brood. For instance, American robins may have up to three broods in one season.

There are some exceptions, though. Barn swallows may reuse an old nest, cleaning out some of the debris from the first brood and adding a new layer of mud to the rim. Other songbirds occasionally reuse a nest if it’s in good shape. Large birds like eagles may reuse the same nest, but these species only raise one brood per year.

Psst—here’s how to safely observe nesting birds.

Hummingbird nests are not durable enough for repeated use. Typically the female will build a new nest for each brood, even within the same year. She may start construction before she finishes feeding the full-grown young from a previous one. In rare cases, a location is so good that females will build right on top of the remains of the old nest.

Mourning dove nests are also flimsy and often fall apart, because the birds build them so quickly.

Next, learn about 8 different kinds of bird nests and what to do if you find an abandoned bird nest or baby bird.

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman
Kenn and Kimberly are the official Birds & Blooms bird experts. They are the duo behind the Kaufman Field Guide series. They speak and lead bird trips all over the world. When they're not traveling, they enjoy watching birds and other wildlife in their Northwest Ohio backyard.