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Photo © Al Tuttle

What should I do if another bird interferes with a nest I’m watching?

If another bird takes over the nest, while the original birds had eggs or young in the nest, there is a special way to report this to NestWatch:

  • Summarize the original bird’s nest and choose the outcome “Failure due to takeover by another bird” and record the species if you know it. Finish summarizing the nest and end the attempt.
  • Start a new attempt for the bird species that took over. You can enter data as normal for this new nest. If the bird is non-native and you wish to manage the nest, please select the appropriate outcome when summarizing this new attempt (“Invasive Species Management”). Otherwise, native competitors must be allowed to nest as normal.

Both native and non-native species have been known to take over nests of other birds. The most common non-native nest usurpers in North America are House Sparrows and European Starlings. We have more information and tips for legally managing these species here.

Native birds, on the other hand, are protected by federal law in North America; it is illegal to disturb the nest or eggs of any native bird species. Though it may not be pleasant to observe, nests and eggs of native species should not be tampered with, including the native Brown-headed Cowbird. House Wrens, for example, are native yet commonly puncture eggs of other cavity-nesting species. For this reason, some nest box landlords prefer not to host House Wrens. If you prefer not to attract House Wrens, make sure your nest boxes are far from shrubs or woods, or add more boxes to help reduce competition.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Cornell Lab of Ornithology