Found a young or injured bird? Read this post.

Do you have a question about birds, animal behavior, or field biology? Ask it in the comments here and I’ll do my best to answer it.

Raise your hand/wing if you have a question.

Raise your hand/wing if you have a question.

Some questions I’ve answered already:

What do I do if I find a baby bird?

How do geckos stick?

What do birds see?

How do birds keep warm? Part 1 and Part 2

How do birds sleep without falling out of the trees?

Why do birds hold their heads still, like in that chicken ad?

What happens to the animals when there is a fire?

What do birds do when it rains?

Does food taste the same to animals as it does to us?

Do birds have a sense of smell?

Could ducks in the water melt ice with their body heat?

96 thoughts on “Questions?

  1. I have just joined and enjoy reading all your comments. I think it is fantastic that I can connect with a scientist and learn about my friends, the birds. I recently took in a Cardinal who flew into my glass door. Despite all the junk on the door to deter collisions. I managed to get him into the hands of our local bird sanctuary who will rehabilitate him and return him into the wild. I Love birds and have so many who call our place home! I would never cage a bird, but give them everything they need to flourish in their natural habitat. I enjoy them more than if they were in a cage and they call our place home. Who could ask for more? I totally support what you are doing, admire you for all your efforts to gain knowledge and do what you love! Thank you for being you and sharing with the rest of us!!!!

    • Thanks Joanne! I appreciate the nice words. And that’s great that you got the cardinal to a wildlife rehabber. Our appreciation of the wild birds around us brings with it a responsibility to help them out when they get into trouble, as you did.

  2. Thanks for the great answer but here’s one more question..I live in CT and we’ve had some real bitter days and nights this winter. I have a feathered friend who has made the top of our porch light fixture his bed. I turn the light on for him every night in the hopes of keeping him warm…well at least his feet. I can talk and walk right underneath him and he doesn’t fly away. This is his second winter living in this cheap cheap rent. Do you think he’s content and warm? Thanx in advance…Deb

    • Hi Debbie, I think if your feathered friend keeps coming back to the same place, he probably likes it! I’d guess that your porch light fixture provides some shelter from the wind, both from the fixture itself and from being close to the wall of your house. Too, depending one what side of the house it is, and what it’s made of, and how well-insulated your house is, the wall itself may be radiating some heat. (If it’s a south-facing wall that gets sunlight in the day, and if it’s made of something heat-absorbing like brick, it may be slightly warm in the evenings.) And if the lightbulb is a kind that heats up, as you suggest, then that probably does keep him warm. You don’t say what species he is but especially if he’s a little guy (chickadee, wren) then even very small differences in heat loss over the night will make a big difference to his survival. It sounds like he’s lucky to have found your porch light!

  3. Hello: I found your December 2012 post regarding how birds keep warm in winter very comprehensive and beautifully explained. I do have a follow up question: would the body heat of a modest mixed gathering of water birds (gulls, ducks etc) melt ice at the edges of a pond? One birding friend says yes, another says no. Based on my sketchy research, I tend to agree with the one who says yes. What’s your professional opinion?

  4. i found a nest of stellers jays and there are 4 eggs in it but i heard that stellers jays kill each other or push each other out of the nest and there nest is quite small should i take them in when they hatch or what im scared for the bird and i also heard they will kill each other kinda like hawks please help me

    • i and almost for got they built there nest about 7 feet off the ground and there are tons of stray cats here that have killed lots of birds here before and its on a branch that they can easily climb on to get to the nest to feed there kittens i have seen around

      • You really just need to let the jays try to raise their own chicks. Jays are tough and may be able to fend off the cats, or the cats may simply not notice them. Most urban birds have to live with cats these days. If you see a chick being attacked by a cat – THEN you should rescue it, and take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. But you should first give them the chance to be raised by their parents.

    • Please leave the nest alone and let the parents raise their own chicks. It is cruel (and illegal) to take eggs or chicks from parents who are able to raise them – like kidnapping them! Feel free to watch them from afar and enjoy your chance to watch these little birds growing up as they are meant to, in nature.

      Sometimes jays fight and kill each other, like hawks and most other animals. Nature isn’t always nice – but it is always better to give wild animals the chance to be wild. Humans are very bad at raising wild animals. The wild animals, on the other hand, are very good at raising more wild animals!

      • Thank you so much they have about a week before hatching and I have been chasing strays out of the yard but I did find 1 of the eggs were missing but I soon found out that magpies ate it :( I was a bit sad and now I leave food away from the nest that way they don’t eat the eggs :D

  5. Hi!
    I’ve been looking everywhere for info about birds and fortunately i found your blog.

    A few days ago, i found a nest inside a vase that is hanging from one of my backyard’s walls. It had four eggs. Few days later I heard some tweets coming from inside, and I saw the parents coming and going with food. Long story short, today i saw that four pretty little birds where already in my backyard’s floor, jumping around and learning how to fly and their parents where feeding them constantly.

    But as day went by, i realized that there was no way in which the little birds could get inside the vase again and I started worrying. They spent most of the day huddling together (it wasn’t a cold day, but it was windy) and eating. Then night came, and suddenly they started jumping and flying towards some flower pots that i have, but as night grew darker i couldn’t keep track of them.

    I’ve been trying to stay away from them (I look at them through a window) and I’ve been keeping my family from going outside, because i don’t want to scare them or their parents, but is our backyard, and we sorta have to do some things out there (laundry, etc)

    What should i do? Do they hide at night to stay safe? or Is there any way in which I can protect them from cats? or cold? or everything at night? I haven’t seen them drinking any water, should i put some in a little container or something? D:

    Please help! i know i sound a little bit anxious but i care a lot about them, and i want them to be safe

    • Hi! I don’t think you need to do anything; it sounds like the chicks have fledged just like they’re supposed to, if they have feathers and are learning to fly and being fed by the parents. While they learn to fly they will hide a lot, preferably in bushes or dense vegetation, to be safe from predators like cats. If you want to chase any cats out of your yard, the birds would probably appreciate that. You don’t need to worry about the cold, or about water – they can get the moisture they need from the bugs their parents bring them. You can still move around in your yard to do laundry and anything else you like, but you might keep an eye out for the chicks just to make sure you don’t step on one. If you notice the parent birds making a lot of noise or swooping near you, you might be standing really close to one of the chicks, and you can move away to avoid distressing the parents.

      I know it seems a little scary when the chicks first leave the nest, because they usually can’t fly and still look like babies. They leave because it’s actually safer for them to be outside, since it lets them spread out and move around, making them harder for predators to find. Soon they should get better at flying.

      You’re lucky to get a chance to watch them grow up – enjoy it! :-)

      • Thanks a lot Katie!

        It’s hard to hear (read) that one should do nothing though, because you know, when you care you want to help, but, as you said, i’m lucky enough for getting the chance to watching them grow.

        So i guess, that’s exactly what I’ll do, I’ll let them grow and learn from their parents, take a few pictures maybe, and enjoy while they’re here, tweeting and jumping all around.

        As I said, thanks a lot, I really appreciate your help with this, and how cool you were answering my anxious questions hahaha. I hope I could still count with your help if something happens (Let´s hope not)

        Have a great week!

  6. Hi Katie,

    I live in Kent WA. One morning on my deck, I spotted a Dark-eyed Junco with a bug. It flew into a hanging flower bed. When it flew off, I peeked to find a nest and three hatchlings. My question is how long before they start to try and fly? I have 2 cats that like to hang out on our deck and I am afraid they will harm the birds. I have been keeping the cats indoors because I saw the parents eating seed on the deck and drinking water from flowering pot run off. I want to make sure they fly off when they are ready.

    I used to raise Love Birds. I hand fed the babies. So I love birds. At the same time, I love my cats and want them to enjoy the sun on our deck. One cat, Maile, is 17 years old and although she is very slow, I have seen her move very fast.

    I was also told that Dark Eyed Juncos can have 2 clutches each summer. So, can I expect more broods from this nesting pair? And how long before they fly?


    • Hi Steve,

      Junco nestlings will leave the nest at around 11-14 days old. (At 0-3 days old, they look pink and naked; at around 9 days old and up, they are mostly covered in feathers. In between they are, well, in between – pink skin and stick-like pinfeathers.) When they leave, they are flightless and clumsy, and mostly hide and wait to be fed. They’ll be most vulnerable to your cats in the days right after they leave the nest. The longer you can keep the cats from eating them, the more the little ones will be able to grow in their wing- and tail-feathers and eventually fly.

      My biases are definitely toward the baby birds (I love cats too, and have one, but the loss of warm sun seems less than the loss of life to a bird), so I’d say if you can just keep the cats indoors for 2-3 weeks, that would be ideal. However, any amount of time that you’re willing to keep them inside definitely helps. And if you can keep an eye on them when they’re outside, and head them off if they start hunting anything, that would help too.

      I’ve had lovebirds and they are wonderful – raising them sounds like a great experience. Thanks for caring about the juncos! I hope your nest thrives.

      • Hi Katie,

        Thank you so much for your response. The babies have feathers but almost bald in the head. It looks like they will be ready to fly in a few more days. Boy they grow fast.

        I am with you as per favoring the birds vs my cats. I just wanted an idea how long I have to keep my cats off the deck.

        Can’t wait to see the little birds trying to fly. I hope they don’t fall off the deck.


  7. Hi. Is it possible that a male junco would adopt an orphaned towhee? I have this unusual pair in my backyard and the chick is at least 1.5 times the size of the junco. Based on coloring, I think the junco is a male. Thanks.

    • Hi Debbie,
      You probably have a junco with a baby cowbird. Brown-headed Cowbirds are brood parasites: the female lays eggs in other birds’ nests, and the other birds raise the baby cowbirds, thinking that they’re their own chicks. The cowbirds grow fast and a fledgling cowbird is a stocky brown bird, larger than a junco – I could see how you would think it might be a towhee. The male junco will think that the cowbird is his, and take care of it as if it were. It’s always interesting (and sort of funny, given the size difference) to see these pairs. Thanks for mentioning it!

  8. During the last week, we’ve had a tiny little male Junco feeding a fledgling that is much bigger than papa Junco. Junco has orange legs, fledge has grey and also spots or streaks on its chest. Are there birds that lay eggs in Junco nests and then outcompete the brothers and sisters? This guy is keeping papa Junco very busy with feeding. Junco dads are very devoted.

    • Sounds like you’ve got a cowbird! Baby juncos also have streaky chests, but they are the same size as adult juncos. Cowbirds are nest parasites: instead of raising their own chicks, they lay eggs in other birds’ nests and then the other birds raise the baby cowbird. This happens to juncos a lot.

  9. Hi there:
    I read recently (in Peterson’s Field Guide) that Dark-eyed Juncos have been known to hybridize with White-throated Sparrows. Have you ever come across one; I think it’s pretty rare.
    What does the hybrid look like? Maybe you have a photo?

  10. Hi
    I stumbled onto your very cool blog while looking for info about juncos and their winter migration.

    At the moment I’m wondering if you might be able to identify the gray bird that has taken up nighttime residence in my new winter roost box in NJ. I was thinking it must be a titmouse (the box is sized for titmice and downies I think) but wanted to ask you whether juncos ever use roost boxes.

    There are feathers in the bottom that I could send you a picture of. Also a sort of fuzzy photo of the bird through the hole. It’s a vertical box but the bird is always right to the right of the hole just inside the box.


    • Hi Cheron,
      It’s more likely to be a titmouse, I think, since juncos – as far as I know – don’t tend to hang out in cavities. However, birds are variable and I wouldn’t say it’s impossible – maybe you have an innovative junco! If you want to send me the photos at klabarbera[at], I’ll take a look.

  11. Hello Katie,

    Thank you for creating an informative blog. I recently bought a fantail pigeon. Lately, I have been reading articles here and there about birds. I do have a few questions. I don’t know if this is common among fantail pigeons but my bird has one eye closed. It looks like it might be infected. I don’t know if she can open it or not. I don’t want to disturb her too much. I read in another article that too much stress can increase blood pressure. Anyway, I think her fantail might poke her eye when she itches herself. I don’t know what to do. Lastly, she sneezes. I had no idea birds sneeze. How much is too much sneezing? Your focus is on juncos but I assume there are common symptoms among most birds.

    • Hi Lucero,

      How neat, pigeons seem like great pets! Unfortunately I’m not a vet so I can’t directly answer your questions, but here is a collection of links for people with pet pigeons: Hopefully one of those is helpful. Lots of people keep pigeons as pets, and a fantail pigeon is a domesticated animal with lots of history of human contact (hence the impractical but pretty tail), so I’m sure there are pigeon-savvy people who can help!

  12. I know you no longer work with house wrens, but we have a house wren mystery in our yard. A male has begun feeding a trio of cardinal nestlings in a nearby nest. I thought he would lose interest in the cardinals when his own nestlings hatched (which happened when the cardinals were a few days old), but he has not. He now feeds both sets of nestlings. A quick browser search turned up a few reports of house wrens feeding other nests, but has the behavior been looked at more closely? Is this one of those things that is relatively common but almost impossible to study? (If you are interested, there are more details and a few photos in my most recent blog post.)

    Thank you for your time! And thank you for your fascinating blog!

  13. We have a nest with baby junco’s in a flower pot that we have watered daily before we discovered them. They seemed fully feathered but weak looking and this morning, sadly were gone with no sign and haven;t seen the parents. What could have happened?

    • They are! Their ancestors were dinosaurs, so if you consider anything descended from a thing to be that thing (in evolutionary biology we call this “monophyly,” and we like it), birds are absolutely dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are not extinct: they just look like birds now. And recently we’re realizing more and more that the dinosaurs we think of as looking like dinosaurs – the ones like T. rex, say – looked more like birds than we previously thought: a lot of those dinosaurs were probably covered in feathers.

  14. I need help. I’m concerned about 20 days juvenile brown head cowbird I found fledgling and rescued him from 3 feral cats.
    I have given him meal worms mostly and little of blueberries. He is flying very well although he doesn’t take off high flights from the ground. he is flying very well straight long distances.
    Also he doesn’t get detach from us. He is either alone in a tree and when is hungry come to us and he must forage but he doesn’t.
    I don’t what to do. I need help for his own sake. I don’t the bird putted down if in a rehab center can’t do anything for him.
    Would you guide me please./ Thank you

  15. Hi!! My question, where do fledged house wrens go after leaving the birdhouse? How do parents recognize and take care of them? I’m happy the three babies made it and were very good size but I’m terribly sad to not see them anymore😓😓I hope they’ll be alright! Thank you!!

    • Hi Kathy,
      Young house wren fledglings will hide in brush while their parents feed them. They’ll become more active and adventurous as their feathers grow in fully and they become competent fliers; they’ll gradually feed themselves more as their parents feed them less. The parents almost certainly recognize them by their calls (I’m not sure anyone has looked into it with house wrens specifically, but that is the pattern with many bird species). After a few weeks the fledglings will be entirely independent.

  16. No question, just a comment. I love your site and wish you all the best in your research and dissertation. Keep up the great work!

  17. Hello, I have a serious question about Gambel’s quail, the answer to which, after doing a fairly comprehensive Google search, appears either unknown or unavailable. Given the bizarre and fascinating nature of the behavior in question, I find it equally strange that references to this behavior are neither common, nor foremost in any discussion of this most interesting bird.

    I’m not sure what the correct word is for a group of quail, but we have about a dozen or more who frequent our Arizona backyard on a daily basis. We feed them on a regular basis, and have seen some hatchings over the past couple of years. Only recently, however, has something very odd happened among the birds who, twice now, have suddenly stopped in the their tracks, quite literally, and remained motionless for up to 30 minutes at a time.

    You’re probably already familiar with this phenomenon, but for those unaccustomed to witnessing the activity, it is quite an amazing sight. Neither my wife nor I had ever heard of such behavior, let alone actually seeing it for ourselves. And indeed, it must be seen to be appreciated.

    To be perfectly clear, I’m talking about six or seven grown animals, busy scratching away for seeds, who suddenly, like the stopping of a watch, become rigid, unmoving statues of their former selves. A glass door is nearby and our two cats occasionally lunge at the window, which scares the birds away temporarily. But not in this case. The normally skittish birds appear impervious to all external threats, and one gets the idea–though I haven’t tried it–that I could simply open the door, reach out, and grab any one of them.

    This letter would not be complete, however, without including an observation that my wife made, during the second, most recent event. She saw the shadow of what appeared to be a hawk or falcon, cast on a nearby wall. It’s as if the quail saw either the bird of prey, or its shadow, and immediately responded by turning to stone. It seems very unlikely that this was a coincidence, and I feel safe in assuming that the quail were reacting instinctively to a specific (and recognized) threat.

    More to the point, I suppose, are tangential questions as to why the doves and other small birds don’t respond in similar fashion. Is this behavior unique to all quail? Or just Gambel’s? How does such behavior evolve? Why does the hawk (which does not attack) appear unable to distinguish an unmoving quail, from a rock? Do the quail react to the hawk, or just its shadow?

    Lastly, since many, most, or all birds of prey are thought to be modern day dinosaurs, the tyrannosaurus in particular, and since it is widely believed that such carnivores were sensitive to movement, and largely oblivious to motionlessness, then one might conclude that the quail have adopted their behavior accordingly. The hawk simply doesn’t see them if they don’t move? I also suspect that the quail use some kind of signal or sound to alert their fellows, but instead of personal conjecture on my part, I wanted to go straight to the experts for my answers.

    Thank you very much for your time and any insights you might offer to help resolves this tantalizing enigma.

    Robert Anton
    Surprise, AZ 85379

  18. I have two white doves who had laid eggs before, and they hatched but didn’t feed them. One egg hatched this time and they seem to be successful parents and it has grew all his feathers in. It seems like one leg is broken or not functional. She just laid another egg, but I’m not sure what to do about the crippled one. They still feed it but isn’t able to perch so I made a nest on the bottom of the cage. Everything it hops out it doesn’t really stand and continues to get his legs stuck in the cage. Any help?

  19. I live next to a city park in the south, and there many ducks there. Wild mallards are always in pairs, but domestic ducks (mallards are their ancestors) always hang out in their own social group, and don’t seem to interact with ducks outside of their small group. In that small group of six, five are domestic ducks, and the other one is a mallard male, wild type. Of the five domestic ducks, two are white, one is crested with quite dark feathers, two are pied black and white. I think it must be paired with one of the a domestic ducks. I have been wondering why domestic ducks hang out in their own social group with little interaction with other ducks, but wild mallards never had their own gang? Is it because of some differences between domestic ducks and wild mallards? There are six domestic geese there too that always stay together, but there’s no wild geese in the park at least in the past three months, so I don’t know if they interact with wild geese.

  20. I have a bird staying warm in my pirch light. Does he not have a home a bird family? I also think I have them living under my eaves somehow but they’ve been here longer so it’s ok

    • Hi Scot,
      Sorry I missed this comment somehow! Many birds sleep alone at night, even if they have a mate or a flock. Most birds don’t really “cuddle” together the way we expect social mammals to. Your bird is probably very happy to sleep in your cozy porch light! Also, many birds split up from their mates in the winter, then rejoin them (or a new mate) in the spring. A lone bird in January isn’t lonely, he’s just a regular bird.

  21. Hello, this query is a follow-up of sorts to my previous question about quail. In that message dated November 9, 2015, while I alluded to dinosaurs, specifically the T-Rex, I failed to ask your position on the whole dinosaur/bird debate in general. I’m frequently surprised how many people, in a post “Jurassic Park” era, remain unaware that birds as the true ancestors of certain predatory dinosaurs, is not just a plot element of an otherwise fictitious movie. Much like the idea that the theory of evolution is no longer a theory, but considered a fact, I believe the bird/dinosaur connection is now widely accepted as fact. The subject is immensely fascinating and to this end, I and others, I think, would be interested in any personal comments you might wish to share on the matter. Thanks.

  22. Uh, oh, I just noted the comment dated June 15, 2015 by Anonymous, and your reply about dinosaurs. Sorry for missing that. Any other comments, perhaps about the fact that the bird/dinosaur connection is rejected by some scientists and theologians, might prove equally interesting. And what represents the single strongest “proof” that such a connection is a valid one. Thanks once more.

  23. Hi! I’m taking a master birding class through Golden Gate Audubon and the Cal. Academy of Sciences. I work on the UCB campus, and am looking for junco nests! I thought you might have some idea where to look. I am assuming that they need to be on the ground, but away from students, but thought you might know of specific favorite locations — Any ideas? Thank you! Good luck on your dissertation! (Sorry to distract)

  24. Hello. I live in Southern California and a bird has made a nest in the back porch light fixture. I am not bothered by this at all,but forgot a couple nights to turn the light off. I am so concerned that the eggs got too warm. It makes me sad. I am pretty sure she is a house finch but not completely 100% sure. My question is, are the eggs ok? How quickly do the eggs hatch? Also, she keeps lying on them, does that mean they are ok? I just feel awful with leaving that light on. I have since taped the switch to remind me and family not to turn it on. Please get back to me :) Thank you so much in advance!

    • Hi Taylor,
      House Finch eggs take anywhere from 12 to 17 days to hatch. I don’t know how hot your light is, but eggs are made to be incubated by the parents (that’s why the mother keeps sitting on them), so they handle warmth well. (There’s a chance that the mother is sitting on the eggs to shade them from the light – birds will do that if it gets very hot – but without knowing how hot the light is, it’s hard to say.) I think it’s pretty unlikely that one night with the light on did damage to the eggs.
      Once the eggs hatch, the parents will feed the chicks in the nest. After about 16 days, the chicks will leave the nest but will stay in the area, being fed by the parents; these newly-fledged chicks will be covered in feathers, but will have stubby tails and not be very good at flying yet. People often think that these are “abandoned baby birds” and need to be rescued, but they don’t: they hide in the bushes and their parents feed them while they learn to fly.
      If you have a pet cat, the best thing you can do for the birds is to keep the cat indoors for the first few days that the chicks are out of the nest: since they can’t fly, they’re easy prey for cats at this age. (So, if you know when the eggs hatch, keep the cat indoors from 15-20 days after the eggs hatch.) Of course, the more you can keep the cat indoors, the better – you wouldn’t want her to catch one of the parents either! If you have a dog, keep an eye on him to make sure he isn’t catching the chicks either.
      I hope you have fun watching your nest. Let me know what happens!

  25. Hi, we’re so pleased to have discovered your site. We have been enjoying watching a pair of Juncos make a nest on the rock face along our back deck. The nest appeared to be coming along nicely and we enjoyed watching them feed, use the bird bath and build the nest every day but we haven’t seen either the male or female in two days. We’ve discovered that there are, in fact, two eggs in the nest but neither bird is incubating them. Have the eggs been abandoned? Or is this normal behaviour for Juncos? We haven’t been able to locate any information to indicate either way. Thank you for any information you can offer!

  26. Hello Miss LaBarbera.
    My name is Emily and I’m an undergraduate student at SUNY Fredonia. I’m currently in the process of creating a capstone research project, and I would like to study the effects of experimentally lightened tail plumage on dark-eyed junco flushing behavior. Because of certain complications, I will not be able to handle live birds directly. Instead (using some of the methods put forth in Randolet, J; Lucas, JR; Fernandez-Juricic, E. Non-Redundant Social Information Use in Avian Flocks with Multisensory Stimuli. Ethology. 120, 4, 375-387, Apr. 2014. ISSN: 01791613.) my director and I plan to construct robotic juncos. However this is also problematic, as you need deceased junco specimens to make the robots from. I was wondering, do you have any advice or suggestions as to how to obtain deceased junco specimens (humanely, of course), or know of any commercial suppliers? Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you so much for your time, and for creating this lovely blog!
    Emily Bystrak

    • Hi Emily,
      I’d try searching for your local wildlife rehabilitation hospitals and contacting them. They’ll have a regular supply of dead juncos (ones that succumbed to injury/illness) and are probably discarding them. You could ask them to save you any adult juncos, and then pick them up once they’ve saved enough for your project.

      You could also try contacting the Cornell Lab of Ornithology museum; they’ll have freezers full of donated juncos. However, I’m not sure whether they’ll be willing to give them to you, since by doing so they lose the specimen. Juncos are common enough that they might, though.

      Good luck! I did consider robotic juncos in some of my wilder daydreams – I’ll be excited to hear how yours work!

      • Thank you so much for getting back to me! This is really helpful, I’ll let you know how it works out!

  27. I JUST found an I injured Chipping Sparrow in my yard. It was flying in small circles, trying to perch in the trees. But it just kept falling to the ground. I managed to capture it when it flew right into me. Right now it’s in a shoebox. We’re trying to find a rehabilitator. I was wondering if I should give it something to eat while we wait?

    • No – do not try to feed it. It will be fine without food for a short while, and the risk of harming it by feeding it when you don’t know what is wrong with it is too great. Great that you are looking for a rehabber – please try to get it to them as soon as possible!

  28. While watching a robins nest in our rain gutter, we found so much valuable information about nestlings. But now that they have left the nest, we are finding that information about fledglings is scarce. Can you tell us whether the family will stay within their nesting territory with the fledglings? We have rarely seen the mom or dad in the few days since the chicks fledged, despite the fact they were constant fixtures in our yard while they were incubating the eggs and tending to the nestlings. My children and budding bird watchers are very concerned that the parents are no longer busily hunting for food because there are no surviving fledglings to feed. We have considered many possible explanations for their sudden absence, but I would like to provide the children with accurate information,and we can not find any sources on this particular topic. Thanks for your help! . ,

    • Individual birds vary a lot in how far they move after the chicks fledge. Some families will stay in the same area as the nest; others will move pretty far away. The attributes that make an area good for nesting don’t necessarily make it safe for fledglings. The fact that you haven’t seen the parents around suggests to me that they have moved the fledglings somewhere else. (If you see the parents sitting on another nest within a week of the chicks having fledged, THEN be worried: that would suggest that the fledglings had died and the parents were re-nesting.) Too, fledglings can be pretty cryptic: they could be pretty nearby and you might not see them.
      This post is about fledglings, if you haven’t seen it yet:

  29. We had a female and a male blue bird that made a nest in a box on our porch for several years this year one of the birds seem to disappear in the meantime either the male or female keep flying and fluttering by the picture window where we had the nest originally there was no nest this year, it just seems one of the birds is gone and the other ones acting very weird. what happened????

  30. I so enjoyed your web page. I don’t know if it is still an active blog. Sure hope so. I have a question. I have been joyfully watching a Phoebe family nesting on a floor joist just under my porch decking. On May 21, 2016 there were 5 eggs in the nest. The parents have been very busy flying to and fro feeding. I have been careful not to disturb the nest, but today, June 13 I took a picture of the nest with chicks that could hardly fit. When I snapped a picture two fledged. I was surprised at how strong they sounded when they flew by into the alders a few feet away. I am just heart sick. I hope this does not mean they will die. I am sure there are at least two still in the nest. Will the parents go and check and care for the ones still left? Thank you in advance for your response.

    • Hi Sandra,
      This is called “force fledging,” when an observer causes chicks to fledge. It happens often in bird research, for all that we try to avoid it – sometimes you don’t know how old the chicks are until you look, and then they turn out to be old enough to fledge. It’s hard to study what effect this has on the chicks; but you can be reassured by the one study that has been done, which found no effect on the chances of survival of the chicks. Most likely the parents will feed the both the fledglings and the chicks in the nest (which will probably fledge themselves in the next day or so). I think it’s unlikely that you’ve harmed your little phoebe family.

  31. I have a nest of 5 day old Junco in a fuschia right on my patio, yesterday the lighter colored Junio was attacked by a hawk that is attracted by a feeder my neighbors have out, the hawk uses the bird feeder to catch birds for its meal. The dark colored Junco is still with the nest of four babies we believe that would be the father if we follow markings will the father continue care for the babies with out mother? Thank you for all the information on your page.

    • It could go either way. Definitely juncos can raise chicks as single parents; it just depends whether they choose to do that, or to try to find a new mate and start over. 5-day-old chicks are a sort of in-between age (not old, not young) so I’m not sure what your junco will choose to do. If you can, it would be interesting to watch and see if you see him feeding them.
      (And if you don’t see him feeding them at all for many hours, it might be time to look up a local wildlife rehabilitation place, if you have any nearby, and see about getting the chicks to them.)

  32. Thank you so much for replying. We see the father feeding. We were very excited to see him finally feed after a few hours.

  33. Do you have info or photos on Junco development in the nest- after how many days do they get pin feathers in the wings? I have to estimate fledge dates for my job and it’s hard to say how many days they have left in the nest without a time/photo reference. Thanks

  34. Hi,
    I was at the barn I ride at after hours (no staff was still there) when I found a bird drowning in a water trough. I scooped it out laying it on a paper towel to dry off. My guess is it had been in their for at least 8 hours but could have been more like 12. I would have left it to dry and come back to its senses but for two reasons; after further examination I relized the bird was a fledgling, and two the barn dogs and cats would not leave, they were sitting 20 feet away waiting for me to leave so they could enjoy their “snack” I had to leave because I had left my dogs at home for 4 hours and I didn’t want them to have an accident. So I scooped up the baby and put it in a bucket. I put the heat in my car on so it could have a hand a warming up. We’re going to go drive to a pet I to get a heat lamp. I have raised baby birds in captivity before and am wondering if that’s what I should feed this baby. We plan to attempt to return it to near where we found it tommoroe morning. I’m wondering if we did the right thing ??? And what to feed it ? Any advice helps!
    Thank you

    • Hi Celeste,
      Returning it tomorrow is a good plan; being raised by his parents is still the best option.
      For food, it would help to know what species of bird; but it’s hard to go wrong with dog or cat food soaked in water until it’s mushy, and hard boiled egg cut into small pieces. (This isn’t a complete diet, but it should tide the bird over for the night.) The bird may be able to feed itself, which would be best. If it doesn’t, and you need to feed it, you can give it strips of egg with tweezers, or the soaked kibble mush with a syringe. Be sure to stick the syringe well back in its throat: there’s a hole at the base of the tongue that connects to the lungs, so you REALLY don’t want to get food down there. Don’t try to feed the bird water; just give him a shallow dish of water in case he wants it. Stop feeding the bird if he stops gaping, and don’t give him more than about 1cc (=1ml) every hour. Birds can die from being overfed. You don’t need to feed him during the night, but be sure he’s in a cozy box so he won’t get cold.
      Let me know if you get him back to the barn tomorrow!

  35. Hi I have a Junco bird nest in a planter hanging on my patio wall today a hawk was sitting on my fence about 20 feet away I scared it off but I’m afraid it’s going to come back and discover the nest also I read about the fledglings and how they hop on the ground do they know how to fly when they’re hopping on the ground because I’m concerned that my dog might get them I had a birdfeeder up which I took down I’m concerned that the hawk might get little birds that feed there but now I’m concerned that the juncos don’t have seeds to eat also could you tell me if the male and female sleep together in the nest
    Thank you for your time

    • Hi Yvonne,
      Young fledglings aren’t good at flying. When they first leave the nest, they may not be able to fly at all. They are vulnerable to dogs and cats at this age; if there’s a way to keep your dog out of that area, that would be ideal; otherwise, try to keep an eye on him. Dogs often catch and kill young fledglings.
      Probably a good move to take down the birdfeeder, unless you want it to be a birdfeeder for the hawk too. The juncos don’t need the birdfeeder – this time of year, there are lots of yummy bugs for them to catch. Juncos need birdfeeders more in the winter.
      There’s not much you can do to protect the nest from the hawk; but taking down the birdfeeder will definitely help, since it will give the hawk less reason to hang around the area.
      It’s not unheard-of for the male and female to sleep together in the nest, but usually only the female would sleep on the nest, and even she might not do that every night.

      • Thanks so much for your help I really appreciate it I bought a SuperSoaker just in case it returns or the crows come hopefully that would deter it

  36. Hi, this is Libby from east central PA. I think I already know the answer to this one, but is there anything I can do to help increase the survival rate of our Baltimore Oriole fledlings? Doubtful, unless I find a way to disperse our bumper crop of blue jays and starlings. I know my husband believes that I am quite obsessed with the orioles that arrive like clockwork around May 1, but we usually have two or three nesting pairs on our 13 acre wooded property, and I have been observing their behavior for about 10 years now. Amazing beautiful birds, and I just wish I could aid somehow with their survival rate. I think there were three babies in the nest along our driveway, and on Sunday, they fledged, as I could hear their quiet little parental chirping calls in other trees, which is a good sign I think. They were able to get that far. As of today, two days later, I only hear one, and found out where he was based on the parents’ behavior and trips in with food. Oddly enough, two other orioles, a male and a female, were also flying in to this fledgling, and I wondered if there was a group effort going on to feed this little guy?
    Thanks in advance for your response. LOVE your articles and photos.

  37. I took your advice I found a fledgling took it to the vet to make sure it wings weren’t broken. I offered it water and let it go three hours later. It starved to death.

    • I’m sorry to hear that. I’m surprised you know it starved to death, but didn’t have a chance to intervene. If you are *sure* that the parents have abandoned the bird – if the parents haven’t returned in a long time – then it’s okay to take the bird to a wildlife rehabilitator.

  38. Love your blog!! I am in Florida. I live in a ‘sorta’ rural neighborhood. I noticed two mockingbirds building a nest in my date palm right outside my window. I watched whole process until 06/23. Then last week the nest was beginning to poke out on side that the adults entered to feed. One chick stayed there scaring me that it would topple over edge. They had wings and flapped around a lot. I saw one real good and he was standing up too. The sun was now getting very hot. The next morning on 06/24 when I went outside at 7 am I saw the nest was bulging out more on that weak side and everyone was gone. Only one adult sitting high on top of the Foxtail Palm right next to their tree. I did not know if it was a parent or another. I assumed it was since one was always nearby. I was happy for them but can’t stop obsessing something got them. Only because the nest was drooping on that one side. There was 4 chicks and the two adults always in nest or close by. No signs of anything amiss around area. Clean except few those fecal sacks (could fell out) and some spots of brown poop on the driveway under/right off the nest that I didn’t notice before. So either that side of the nest fell some that night or maybe while they were leaving? Will the adult mess with nest and Encourage them to leave? The poop could been them walking around there. I read they leave early in am. The adult on tree top left. I have heavy brush and trees behind my backyard. I see adults flying in there over last two days. Could be for any reason especially if they go separate ways. I wish I knew they made it out of nest safety. What happens after that is in natures hands, but knowing they (lweren’t hurt leaving would help. I would think with 4 (at least 12 days old or more) chicks and two adults there be evidence if they were harmed. You can really get attached to them. I keep watching for them on ground. No luck. Maybe it’s too soon. Everyone tells me they are fine. The nest experienced wind and rain some days week before they left. When I came home that night the very bottom of the nest had been thrown to ground. I don’t think adults remove old nests do they. Sorry I went on for so long.
    Thanks for your insight.

    • Hi Kandis,
      It’s hard to know for sure, but it sounds like your mockingbirds fledged. The parents are acting as though they have fledglings stashed in the brush (and the fledglings are probably scattered in several places, so the parents going in different directions would be normal). If the chicks had all been killed, I’d expect the parents to either have left completely, or be hanging around busily singing and building a new nest. 12 days sounds like perfect fledging age for the chicks.

      I’m not sure what happened with the nest falling apart. A mystery!

      • Thanks so much for your reply. I remember the night before they left thinking that side of the nest would give away soon. I think with all the high winds we had here and being flattened out by growing chicks that nest was failing on that side and there was nowhere else for two them to go but there. They were really close to falling off on that side on night before. The mom had even quit entering on that side. So makes sense that finally seeing it ‘without’ birds it would look worse to me. I think they all left that morning.
        Do parents play any roll in choosing day to fledge? I ask because it was getting so hot sitting in that nest. I also have seen an adult chasing other birds away from my back yard woods area twice now. Glad they float down..❤️ to ground. Thanks again. Still watching for MY babies. lol.

      • Guess what, I finally saw them today 2 houses down by brush area. I had feeling they were in that brush. Because I saw adult mockingbird flying in there several times day after the fledged. This morning the baby birds were crossing road with the dad near flying down to them then back up. I saw least 2. But they do separate for safety. He was then watching them from a tree while they disappeared. At first I tried to hurry over closer but a garbage truck came 😢 and they were back in hiding. Dad stayed above the brush area on top of a tree watching. I know it was them as the adult was a mockingbird. Yea!! So happy!!

  39. How do mockingbirds fledglings safely land from a nest up 5-6′ if they can’t fly yet? We had a nest of 4 that left this past Friday morning. The nest was starting to buldge some on one side. So when I saw they’d left I got worried as that part of the nest had buldged more. I hope it happened from 4 chicks weight or was caused when they all left. The adults or something else removed just the bottom of the nest later that day as it was on ground that night. Adults gone too. Not sure who but one adult was sitting above nest morning I saw was empty. after few min he left. Maybe I had just missed them leave. There was bird poop on ground around nest so babies were down there some. There was no signs of disturbance on ground. I hope they fledged OK. I tried spot them. No luck. We have lot of brush behind/property. Hope they are in there. All I see are adult mocks flying in trees and in brush and the Florida Redbirds. I tried to post this earlier, so I might have duplicated my question. Thank you. Love your blog.

    • Regarding how fledglings leave the nest safely when they can’t fly: they may not be able to fly horizontally or upwards, but they can fly down. So they can jump from the nest, flapping half-grown wings, and sort of fly gently down to the ground.

      Too, baby birds are light enough that they could simply plummet and still probably wouldn’t be hurt. Many ducklings do this – just dive from a nest high in a tree and plunge – and are fine.

      • Ohhh, I was hoping you’d say that. Fantastic thing is I knew nothing until these birds built a nest outside my window. Boy they taught me a lot.
        Thank you!!

  40. A junco pair made a nest in a hanging flower pot on our 2nd story deck. We were excited and felt like new parents as, over a couple of weeks, we watched the two eggs hatch and the parents guard, feed and care for the chicks with intensity. So we were surprised and heartbroken to find both fledglings dead – one on the ground (a story down from the deck) and the other on the deck, apparently trapped inside deep flower pot holder from which it could not escape of be reached.

    To our surprise and delight there were two new eggs in the nest.

    1. What can we do t help these new eggs hatch and survive their fledgling state?

    2. is it likely the new eggs are from the same parental pair?

    3. Could another bird have killed the juncos? There is no evidence of squirrel activity and since its a hanging pot it is pretty unreachable except by a bird.

    4. Is it possible the parents threw the chicks out to make room for the new egg brood?

    Thanks for your blogs.

    Nice work, Doc.

    Jerry Vieira

    • Two follow-up questions:
      1) What did the dead chicks look like? Were they covered in feathers, or could you see big bare patches of pink skin?
      2) Do you have a photo of the new eggs? If so, email to me at klabarbera[at]

      The reason I’m asking is because this sounds possibly like the work of a cowbird. The juncos certainly would not have thrown chicks out of the nest in order to lay more eggs, and the chicks should have survived leaving the nest *if* they fledged on their own. However, a cowbird might have thrown too-young chicks from the nest in order to make room for her own eggs. I’ll be able to ID the species based on a photo of the eggs, so that would prove or disprove this theory.

  41. They had underdeveloped wings and their backs looked like they were feathered. The stomachs looked pink.

    I will try to send a photo pf the eggs.

    This is delightful discussion.

  42. My white dove lost his mate 2 yrs ago but still Lays infertile eggs. How is this possible? Or did we lose the male — we didn’t think so!

    • Sorry to break it to you, but if your dove is laying eggs, she is definitely female! It’s not impossible that her mate was also female, though; some birds will form same-sex pair bonds, especially in captivity. (Some albatross form same-sex pair bonds in the wild and raise chicks together! But that’s fairly unusual.) As for laying infertile eggs, female birds often do that, again especially in captivity. Birds do strange things in captivity – my parents’ lovebird won’t *stop* laying infertile eggs.

  43. hi katie,
    i fell across your site which is wonderful! i’m in Winnipeg, Manitoba,Canada.
    there is a flock of juncos that stops in my yard during their spring/fall migration and there is a fox sparrow pair with them. i have seen a couple of the juncos doing the forward back jump like the fox sparrow. i’ve only seen it done by a couple of the juncos but they do it often when ground feeding in the leaf litter. the other juncos don’t move the same way. do juncos learn from other species or is this something not common but also not rare?
    next question- i built a feeder tray about 2.5′ square with hanging feeders above so all the scattered feed falls onto this tray. i had it up last fall and a couple of juncos (females) tried it out but the majority (over 100) were not interested. this past spring, there were a few more who tried it out. i noticed the first of the fall migration on sept. 26 (14 of them)with a lot more arriving oct 6 (around 40). there are many more of the juncos willing to try out the tray even though it is just over 5′ off the ground. it is funny watching them the first time they try it. they keep one foot on the edge of the 1″ x 2″ trim with one foot on the tray until they decide it is safe to put both feet down. they always stay right by the edge for the first few days and do not spend all their feeding time on it. they go back and forth, ground to tray. is this common junco behaviour? how much can a junco learn?
    this is the first time i’ve noticed a number of them moulting and looking very scruffy. i don’t know if they had moulted while here before or not as the tray was still too new for many of them to try. now that there are more up where i can see them, it is very evident the raggedness of some of the feathers and the bits of down sticking out.
    i love watching the juncos even if for only a few weeks twice a year and want to learn more about them.
    thank you for hosting this site :)

  44. my juncos were almost all gone for 3 days and returned yesterday. i only saw 3 the first 2 days then 6 on day 3. yesterday there were 50-60 visible again in the feeding areas i have set up here. this isn’t behaviour i have noticed before.
    will juncos head to more hospitable areas when it is stormy or just hide in the hedges and cedars? i fully admit i was happy to see them return and listen to them chatter while feeding. the first ones to land do the sort of “tchk” noise but once there are more than a half dozen or so, they seem to go into chatter mode. i also wonder if the reason they came back or out of hiding is because a lot of them still seem to be in moult. i also wonder if they are going to stay for the winter-a flock stayed 2 winters ago- or if they will move on when it gets colder.
    what is normal behaviour and what is because of the climate change and the birds staying further north than before?

    thanks :)

  45. Hi Katie,
    Thank you for the short and satisfying information in your blog!
    When it rains, house sparrows’ feathers seem to become more waterlogged than, e.g. mourning doves’. Does that have something to do with the surface area to volume ratio? Fewer feathers? They also seem more willing to feed in the rain, I think for example, comparing with birds of the same size, than song sparrows or juncos although I can’t adequately compare because the house sparrows feed in my yard in large numbers whereas the other two appear singly or as a few and much less frequently.
    Thank you, Diana

    • Hi Diana,
      I don’t have a solid answer for you, but I’m intrigued by this question! One possibility is that because House Sparrows are smaller than doves, and therefore have a greater surface area-to-volume ratio, they get cold easier and have to spend more time out in the rain foraging. Sleeked-down feathers can keep birds warm in moderate-to-heavy rain, and also tend to appear much wetter to observers. The larger doves may be able to stay under shelter longer, and go with the mild-rain strategy of fluffed-up feathers (which appear less wet).

      I’m going to do some more research to see if I can find anything else.

  46. Thank you for this blog, I thoroughly enjoy your information and insights. I would like to email you a copy of a paper I wrote…am very interested in all the varied ways in which animals, including birds, communicate. If interested, please email me.

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