What to Do When You Find a Bird’s Nest in Your Yard

By Mitchell Parker, Houzz

One summer my family and I had some unexpected guests arrive at our back door. No, they weren’t distant relatives looking for a place to crash. They were adult songbirds building a nest under the eave of our apartment. Over the next four weeks, we marveled at the cheerful progress from nest building to egg laying and hatching, and the loud chirps of hungry chicks at the site of their delivered dinner of worms.

bird nest
David Magers, original photo on Houzz

It was a fun experience that made the mornings a little more interesting. But one regret I have is that I didn’t know about NestWatch, a citizen science project founded in 1965 at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Since that time, the project has been collecting data in North America from community members based on nesting observations in home yards and neighborhood parks.

In other words, for 50 years citizens who find a nest like I did have recorded information on how many eggs or nestlings are present and other observations. They then send the data to NestWatch, which analyzes the trends.

In the early days of the program, a lot of the data was used to establish basic facts about nesting birds, which no one really knew much about up until that point. Things like what kind of trees birds nest in, how many eggs they lay and when they lay them, and when they build their nests. “People didn’t know these things,” says Robyn Bailey, NestWatch’s current project leader. “The database established the basic ecological information about even common birds.”