Do Birds Reuse Their Nests?

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

“Do birds reuse their nests? asks Liza Peniston of Augusta, Kansas. The short answer is that it depends on the species. There are endless variations in bird behavior.

Mourning Dove (zenaida Macroura) Incubating Its EggsJames Randklev/Getty Images
Mourning doves do not reuse their nests

Bird That Do Not Reuse Nests

As a very general rule, smaller birds usually make their nests for a single use, especially those that build nests in the open. Most multi-brooded birds do not reuse nests because the materials are not durable enough to last through more than one brood. For example, American robins may have up to three broods in one season and typically build a new nest for each brood.

Learn more about robin nests and eggs.

Hummingbird nests are not also durable enough for repeated use. Typically the female hummingbird 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 often flimsy and often fall apart, because the birds build them so quickly.

barn swallow nestCourtesy Judy Mayhew
Barn swallow nest

Birds That Do Reuse Nests

But birds that build nests in enclosed spaces, such as bluebirds or house wrens that use tree cavities or birdhouses, are somewhat more likely to use those spots for a second brood. 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 or herons may reuse the same nest, but these species only raise one brood per year.

Psst—here’s what to do if you find a nest, eggs or a baby bird.

Next, learn about 8 different kinds of bird nests and how to identify bird eggs by color and size.

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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.