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Tracey Hebert

Hatfield, MA, USA


Discovery of house finch nest on our wreath on our front door! We noticed the house finches stealing our artificial wrath twigs last month and now we found that they built a nest! It seems we have a cowbird egg in there. The House Finch hasn’t abandoned the nest yet! Will keep an eye on it and leave out the back door for a while.

House Finch Nest With Cowbird Egg

House finch nest with Cowbird egg on a front door wreath in Hatfield, MA. May 22, 2018

31 responses to “House Finch Nest with Cowbird Egg”

  1. Haley says:

    How did you get the cowbird egg out? We have the same thing!! 3 little house finch eggs and a cow bird egg in our wreath on the front porch. Did your cow bird egg hatch and kill the other five?

    • Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

      Hi Haley, Brown-headed Cowbirds are native, and therefore it is against federal law to remove their eggs from a nest without a federal permit. You may be pleased to know that House Finches are one of the few species that feed their young a mostly vegetarian diet, and because cowbird young need insects to grow strong, they typically do very poorly in House Finch nests. If you find cowbirds eggs in a nest, it’s best to leave them be.

  2. Kate McCain says:

    For what it’s worth, we’ve had a baby cowbird at our hanging feeder–alternately eating sunflower seed and harassing/begging a house finch for food. Rose Valley, Delaware County, PA. 3 May 2020.

  3. Adam Stoops says:

    I found a finch egg & I put it in a cardinals nest. Will the cardinals take care of the egg?

    • Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

      Hi Adam, Please note that it is against federal law to handle or disturb wild birds, nests, and eggs. House Finches need a slightly longer incubation time, and House Finch nestlings are fed a vastly different diet than Northern Cardinals, so this egg, if it is even still viable, will likely do very poorly if it hatches. An egg or nestling’s best chance at survival is with its own parents. Additionally, if you find an egg or nest that you think has been abandoned, we recommend waiting 4 weeks before determining that it has indeed been abandoned, as birds may still be tending to the nest when we’re not looking. Any eggs found outside of a nest are likely not viable – they need near-constant incubation in order to hatch. Please email us with any further questions at – these comment sections are not regularly monitored.

  4. Alyssa says:

    We have a house finch nest in our wreath. At one point there were three house finch eggs. I noticed the eggs were gone the next day. Then a cowbird egg appeared and next thing I knew there were two and one finch egg was back. I have seen both house finches in the nest and the female
    Sitting on it at night, yesterday I saw what appeared to be a female cowbird take the one house finch egg out of the nest and eat it. Is this possible?

    • Anne says:

      Yes, unfortunately they will do that.

    • Debbie says:

      We have what I think is a house finch nest in our door wreath, too! (Darned inconvenient. – we’ve been avoiding using our front door for over 2 weeks now, trying not to disturb it too much.) We had 2 matching eggs and a 3rd that might have been cowbird, but now we have two (matching) hatchlings and no cowbird egg or chick in sight. Anyone have any ideas what might have happened to it?

      • Holly Grant, Project Assistant says:

        Hi Debbie, It’s hard to know for sure here. Some species have learned to reject cowbird eggs, so the finches could have gotten rid of it. It’s also possible that a predator stopped by the nest and took the cowbird out (such as a crow or jay). If you have more questions, please email us at These comment sections are not regularly monitored.

  5. B Williamson says:

    I have a House Finch nest with 5 unhatched Eggs. The COWBIRD egg that WAS in the nest with them hatched and hatchling died 2 days ago. Next day the dead Cowbird was out of the nest at first viewing. Its been 3 days since. Mom still attending to nest but no House Finch hatching. Should I expect them to hatch? Previous nests 6 HF only and none of them hatched- after nest abandoned by parents after incubation period had come and gone.

    • Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

      Hi, Brown-headed Cowbirds often hatch a few days ahead of other nestlings in their host nest – it’s one of the adaptations that helps them succeed. However, they often do poorly in House finch nests, as House Finches feed a vegetarian diet to their young and cowbirds need insects to thrive. This all being said, we recommend waiting another week or so just in case the House Finch eggs hatch. If you have questions, please email us at

  6. Micaela says:

    We have a similar situation here — Finch made a nest in our wreath, and currently has 4 of her own eggs and now 2 additional cowbird eggs. Prior to a couple days ago, the Finch female was tending to the nest often — (Finch male was often nearby too) and nearly any time I opened the door (the wreath is near our main entrance), she was in there and would fly away but quickly come back. For the last 48 hours I haven’t seen her at all. I’m concerned she’s abandoned her nest. Is this common?
    Also, today, the wreath had been disrupted somehow (not by a human), but shifted to the side, almost spilling the eggs from the nest — it seemed odd. Could have been the wind, but seems very unlikely. Thank you!

    • Holly Grant, Project Assistant says:

      Hi Micaela, If a bird is disturbed too often, there is a greater risk of abandonment. If you find a nest on your door, we recommend trying to use other doors if possible. If that is the only entrance to your home, then avoid using it as much as you can, and when you do, try to be very slow and quiet. That said, since you see it has been disrupted, it’s possible a predator found the nest. In any case, if the wreath can be safely returned to its original position, try that first, and then avoid the door as much as you can to see if the adult will come back. If the adult does not return for at least 3-4 week, and there is no change in the eggs themselves, then it’s likely abandoned. Please let us know if you have any additional questions via – these comment sections are not regularly monitored.

  7. Linda Kaye says:

    I had a house finch build her nest in my outdoor wreath. She layed a egg a day . We noticed a cow bird egg on the 4th day. We had a total of 7 eggs including the cow egg.We counted the days that were possible when the eggs would hatch. The cow bird egg hatched 2 days earlier. The hatchling didn’t make it . Two days later(today), all the finch eggs were gone. I found a few shells in the nest and 1/2 egg on the ground . No baby bird fetuses at all . What could have happened? I’m devastated because we have been so careful about opening the doors to go out . It’s my only exit from the house.

    • Holly Grant, Project Assistant says:

      Hi Linda, This sounds likely to be the result of a predator, perhaps a crow or jay. Small mammals (such as chipmunks, squirrels, etc) can be predators too, especially if they can access the wreath. Being a nest box monitor can be extremely rewarding, but unfortunately, it also often brings to light the more unpleasant side of nature. In the wild, only about half of all bird nests are successful, which is one of the reasons why they lay so many eggs and have multiple broods per year – they are attempting to increase their chances of success. There are ways to help increase those chances, and they often do, but it’s important to remember that there are still some things that are beyond our control. Let us know if you have additional questions via email at; the comment section is not regularly monitored.

  8. Joseph Kelly says:

    What I believe to be a goldfinch built a nest in a wreath on our front door. When I looked in the nest there were 5 light blue eggs about twice the size of a M&M. A couple of days later I checked the nest and there are only 3 eggs! There is not a hint of the other 2 eggs….no shell bits, no mess. Mom still taking care of the 3 remaining eggs. Did she or someone else eat the 2 missing eggs??!!

  9. Marilyn says:

    Is it safe to reuse a door wreath after the birds have left the nest? Or do they have diseases?

    • Holly Grant, Project Assistant says:

      Hi Marilyn, Birds can indeed carry and be infected with several diseases, including Salmonella, so it’s always a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly after coming in contact with an area where they frequent, such as nest boxes and feeders. So, it will be good to wash your hands after touching or moving the wreath around. Alternatively, if the wreath can be washed, you may wish to do so with a weak bleach solution, or very hot water and soap.

  10. Thresa Lacy says:

    I have a red finch nest w/5 eggs, with a good possibility that the female has perished by the paws of outdoor cats. (We have proof but not a true verification, found feathers on the porch)However after 2 days of no sighting I have spotted another red finch adding to the nest. She is covering up the existing eggs. Is she just tiding up the nest or is she covering up the old to lay new eggs. We were trying to avoid a nest on the porch and kept taking down as they built. But the original female built her nest in one day and of course laid eggs. What should I do, it’s now been 4 days since anything has sat on the eggs.

    • Holly Grant, Project Assistant says:

      Hi Thresa, it’s hard to tell – I would keep watching as normal, checking once every 3-4 days. We always recommend waiting at least four weeks from the last time you saw an adult near the nest to ensure that a nest is truly abandoned, because this accounts for the incubation period as well as for any delays in incubation (many birds can delay incubation up to two weeks or so). Once that four weeks is up, you’ll know whether the eggs have hatched or not, and at that point can act accordingly (you can legally remove the nest if the eggs are indeed abandoned at that point). Please email with any further questions – these comment sections are not monitored regularly.

  11. Real man says:

    Same problem, can someone give us an answer?

    • Holly Grant, Project Assistant says:

      Hi, I’m not sure which problem you are referring to. Brown-headed Cowbirds are native, and therefore it is against federal law to remove their eggs from a nest without a federal permit. You may be pleased to know that House Finches are one of the few species that feed their young a mostly vegetarian diet, and because cowbird young need insects to grow strong, they typically do very poorly in House Finch nests. If you find cowbirds eggs in a nest, it’s best to leave them be.

  12. Stevear says:

    I trust this Wild Harvest Finch Daily Blend because this nutritionally balanced daily diet with orange essence is one of my favorite sparrow treats. They love it. I feed them this seed once a week in addition to their usual food.

  13. Jean says:

    I have a finch nest in my front porch light fixture. We’ve been avoiding turning on the light but I had to turn it on for a something and forgot to turn it off for about 3 hours. I think the eggs are hatched and there are babies. Will the light kill the babies? I hope not. I feel so bad.

    • Holly Grant, Project Assistant says:

      Hi Jean, Light should not have that adverse of an affect. The main concern when nests are built on lights is scaring away the adults and/or excessive heat. If the nestlings are still acting normally the next time you check on this nest, things are likely fine. If you think they could be injured, then call your local wildlife rehabilitator for the next steps.

  14. Andrea Shultz says:

    I have same scenario… A finch nest in a wreath on front door, and now also has cowbird eggs. Wondering if I move the entire wreath to an adjacent nearby exterior wall on my covered porch, if the Mama birds will find the wreath with nest…?

    • Holly Grant, Project Assistant says:

      Hi Andrea, it’s better not to move a nest at all. Moving it just a few feet may cause the adult to abandon the nest. We recommend letting the nest continue as normal, and to give it as much space as you can. Most finch nests last only about a month once incubation starts.

  15. EllieTC says:

    Holly – thank you for answering all of these questions and reassuring those of us with non-viable hatchlings and/or unhatched eggs that it’s not necessarily something we did “wrong”. This has been weighing heavily on me as a House Finch built a nest in our front door wreath and we limited our comings/goings as much as possible. It was so exciting to see 6 eggs – all finch eggs – then 2 hatchlings, and sadly, the babies died several days later and the remaining eggs still haven’t hatched despite the mother tending to them. We’ll keep watch for the next few weeks.

    My question is this: other than depredation, is it also possible that this is the mother’s first clutch and she didn’t know what to do to help the hatchlings thrive? We never observed her feeding them so am curious if that could be the culprit – or if that’s highly unlikely. Thanks!

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