What to Do if You Find a Bird Nest With Eggs or a Baby Bird

If you find a bird nest near your door, an abandoned bird nest with eggs, or if you see a baby bird on the ground, here's what you should do.

Birds gather twigs, leaves and any nesting material they can get their beaks on to create a cozy home for their families this time of year. With an increasing loss of natural habitat, it’s only a matter of time until a budding brood moves into your backyard. Here’s what you should do if you find an abandoned bird nest with eggs or a baby bird in your backyard.

barn swallow nestCourtesy Judy Mayhew
Barn swallow nest on a front porch 

There’s a Bird Nest Near my Door 

Where a bird chooses to build a nest is not always convenient for its human hosts. But remember, it isn’t every day that you’re given a front-row seat to one of the most exciting cycles of nature. If possible, be hospitable and find another way to enter your home. Your feathered visitors stay only for a handful of weeks. Alert anyone who might frequent the door, and keep pets away from the nesting area. Follow these tips for a successful nesting season.

If there’s no alternative way to enter, contact your local wildlife agency to ask for assistance. Moving a nest on your own may technically violate the law. Although some birds, like house sparrows and starlings, aren’t protected by these laws, most bird species are covered.

Learn about 8 different kinds of bird nests and how to spot them.

bird eggs in nestCourtesy Laura Newton
Robin eggs in nest

I Found an Abandoned Bird Nest With Eggs

It’s unlikely the adults have abandoned the bird nest with eggs. Many birds don’t start incubating until the last egg is laid, which is why you might not see the parents for some time. Or maybe you’ve lingered too long and they’re waiting for you to scram. Even spooked birds most likely will return within a day or two. Do birds reuse their nests?

On the off chance that the pair does not return, it probably means the eggs are not viable. Give yourself plenty of time to come to this conclusion, however, and don’t discard any nest or its contents without first reaching out to your local wildlife agency. Most birds and their nests are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which states that it is illegal to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase or barter any part of a nest or eggs unless you hold a valid permit.

Learn how to attract nesting birds to birdhouses.

Nestling robin in a nestCOURTESY DIANE BASETTE
Nestling robin 

A Baby Bird Fell Out of the Nest

If the little one you’ve found has feathers, it’s best not to interfere. That bird, called a fledgling, most likely left the confines of the nest on purpose. While it can’t fly yet, a fledging spends a couple of days wandering around, hiding in shrubs or low branches. Rest assured its mom and dad are waiting in the wings nearby. In fact, you may even hear their scolding calls if you get too close to their little one.

However, if you find a hatchling, which is a very young bird with no feathers, it probably fell out by accident. In this case, gently place the youngster back in the nest. If the nest is not accessible, set the nestling in a small container filled with shredded paper towel. Fasten it firmly to the tree trunk or place it in a nearby shrub in hopes its parent will care for it. It’s a common myth that adults abandon baby birds upon human contact. But be sure to wash your hands after to avoid spreading disease.

Want to do more? Become a certified NestWatch monitor; visit active nests every three to four days and report your findings to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Get started at nestwatch.org.

Next, check out 9 proven tips to attract nesting birds.

Rachael Liska
From managing national magazines to creating content for the biggest brands in the world, Rachael Liska has over 25 years of writing, editing and project management experience in the family, food, gardening, home decor, travel and birding niches. As an avid home gardener and backyard birder herself, Rachael understands the joy her readers get from creating and observing beauty around every bend, and is eager to help them achieve their dreams with a mix of inspiration and practical advice.
Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten has more than 15 years of experience writing and editing birding and gardening content. As content director of Birds & Blooms, she leads the team of editors and freelance writers sharing tried-and-true advice for nature enthusiasts who love to garden and feed birds in their backyards. Since joining Birds & Blooms 17 years ago, Kirsten has held roles in digital and print, editing direct-to-consumer books, running as many as five magazines at a time, and managing special interest publications. Kirsten has traveled to see amazing North American birds and attended various festivals, including the Sedona Hummingbird Festival, the Rio Grande Bird Festival, The Biggest Week in American Birding Festival, and the Cape May Spring Festival. She has also witnessed the epic sandhill crane migration while on a photography workshop trip to Colorado. Kirsten has participated in several GardenComm and Outdoor Writers Association of America annual conferences and is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. When she's not researching, writing, and editing all things birding and gardening, Kirsten is enjoying the outdoors with her nature-loving family. She and her husband are slowly chipping away at making their small acreage the backyard of their dreams.