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?

202 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.

  47. I have a Carolina Chickadee who has nested in the bottom of a wall mounted metal mailbox. Luckily the box isn’t in use as a mailbox, but I am concerned that the fledglings will have difficulty getting out of the metal box. The eggs are at least six inches down a vertical walled box, with smooth metal sides. Think this will be a problem, or should I provide a stick or something for them to climb out on, eventually? Thanks in advance for any advice you can give.

    • I don’t think it will be a problem. Unlike many birds, when chickadees fledge they usually are able to fly pretty well, and fly directly from the nest to a tree. So if the parents can get in and out of the nest, the chicks will be able to get out by the time they need to. Carolina Chickadees can successfully nest in plastic tubes, which presumably also had smooth sides.

      Enjoy your nest! Try to avoid peeking at it starting about 12 days after the chicks hatch; they usually fledge 16-19 days after hatching, but if they get startled (by a human face peering at them), they may fledge early, which is not as good for them.

      • Thanks so much! I thought as much, but wasn’t sure. She certainly has no problem getting in and out. Cheers!

  48. A little sparrow has been flying from a flower pot into my window about a foot away for over 4 hours now. I want to help but don’t know what to do. The pot is large and is too heavy to move. What do you think is going on?

    • Hi Gerry, this is pretty normal behavior; the sparrow is seeing his reflection in the window, and for not-entirely-understood reasons, birds presented with their reflections often attack them. (See ) If the bird continues to do this, try putting something in the window – an image visible through the window may disrupt the bird’s perception of his own reflection. You could also try turning on a light inside – that may make the window act like less of a mirror. Or you could put something on the outside of the window, so the bird can’t see the window anymore.

      Fun fact: there is a David Sedaris story about this phenomenon.

  49. I have an American Robin fledgling (just leapt the nest yesterday) in my yard. Yesterday, when the sibs left the nest, I noticed that this one couldn’t seem to get away. He eventually pulled himself free, but took a big chunk of nest with him. He was tethered by a piece of dental floss that was used as nesting material, and wrapped around his foot and tail feather. Anyway, my neighbor and I worked together to get the floss and nesting material off of his leg. He seems uninjured, and mom and dad are caring for him. Here’s my weird question; he was hopping around all morning, but then around noon, .the baby perched on top of a wooden statue that I have, about 2 feet off the ground. He’s been there for about 6hours, and dusk is coming. It is a very exposed area, and we have been having very high winds and rain all day, and temps in the 40’s. I can’t figure out why he’s not going to the plethora of tight irises, honeysuckle, etc that are protected under my multitude of trees. I’m worried about him being exposed to so much rain and wind for so long, especially overnight. He doesn’t seem to want to follow mom and dad. I don’t want to intervene if it’s unnecessary, but should I encourage/move him to a nice, cozy, well-hidden spot out of the rain if he doesn’t do it himself by nightfall?

    • Huh, that is a little strange. I would expect him to want to be sheltered, as you say. Perhaps the statue is the only off-the-ground perch he can reach? (He wouldn’t want to be on the soggy ground during rain.) I don’t think it would be a bad idea to move him to a more sheltered perch, as long as there is one nearby (say within 5 ft of his current location) with a good solid branch or ledge to sit on, at least 2 ft off the ground.

      I’m glad you got the dental floss off! I’ve had to untangle a house wren chick who got all wound up in a horse tail-hair that the parents used for the nest. It’s one of those weird dangers you wouldn’t think of…

  50. I am in the SF Bay Area and discovered a nest in my hanging geranium that I identified as a mother Junco. There were three eggs in the nest which, during a very hot spell (80 degrees), hatched. Mama bird would leave the nest to call and the daddy bird would then appear; I saw him a couple of times bringing food. I kept checking by looking in, the eggs hatched, chicks developed fine black fluff. Yesterday was extremely windy and turned very chilly/cold at night. Today I checked and both mother and babies are gone. Can you surmise what happened?

  51. i saw a small bird (sparrow?) carrying a smaller bird from a tree and dropped it on a hedge, was the small bird dead ? or did not want leave the nest ? ps: I,m not any social networks thanks

    • I have no idea! Corvids (crows, jays) will kill, carry, and eat smaller birds, but you describe a sparrow-sized bird doing the carrying. It might be that a nestling died and the parent was removing its body from the nest. A sparrow would never carry a live nestling to make it leave the nest.

      • thanks it sounds like that’s what was happening, it just looked odd at the time. I have nesting great tits in my bird house the first season after I made it, there are young I can hear and see them when the parents are back and fourth feeding them so I will be keeping close eye on them. thanks

  52. What is the name of the bird that is fuschia in color with black on its face with a similar face as a cardinal?

  53. Hi Toughlittlebirds. Love you blog page. Very helpful. One question, tho: Yesterday my neighbors had two fledgling Steller’s Jays in a cage on their porch. I had seen these youngsters with their parents so they were being taken care of. This afternoon they released the babies. Will their parents remember them and join up with them? The crows were going crazy when the babies were screaming (hopefully for their parents). I haven’t heard them for a while so maybe all is well. Thanks for any advice you can give me.

    • It depends how long the fledglings had been separated from their parents. After one day, or even two, the parents will very likely recognize them and resume caring for them. If the fledglings have been kept captive for a long time, the parents will almost certainly not find them again, but the fledglings MAY be big enough to survive on their own. (Definitely they would still have been better off under their parents’ care, though!)

      I hope your neighbors don’t make a habit of this! It’s not good for the birds (and also illegal).

  54. My girlfriend and recently had a dark eyed junco make a nest on our apartment balcony in a lettuce plant. We excitedly watched her build the nest and then lay three eggs. There was never a sign of another parent, either with helping build the nest or feeding the baby. One of the eggs eventually hatched and we excitedly waited for the others. However today we saw a crow flying around the balcony and were saddened to discover it had apparently eaten the eggs and the hatchling! The Junco had dug deep into the roots of the lettuce and killed it, making the nest much more exposed. We had thought of putting things around it to hide it more but it was too late. The mother is currently freaking out and buzzing all around the nest and we feel awful. My question is will she likely lay more eggs in this nest? Or will she leave and find a new spot?

    • She is very unlikely to re-use this nest, since it was depredated. (Occasionally they will re-use successful nests.) It’s possible that she will renest quite close by, though; I’ve seen juncos build new nests within feet of previous, unsuccessful nests. (Never struck me as a good idea, but they don’t ask me…)

      The problem of the lettuce’s dying is an interesting one; juncos build their nests under plants that can change dramatically in the time it takes for eggs to hatch and chicks to fledge. It adds another layer of difficulty to their choice of nest site.

      I have also observed juncos in agitation near recently-destroyed nests. It’s sad, but also I think a valuable insight into their lives. You can’t see something like that and then think of animals as thoughtless automatons.

  55. Hi, thank you for having this site/Q & A! I have kind of a strange problem with one or two little chipping sparrows. A little under a week ago we found two of them hanging out on the outer sill of a low window, repeatedly trying to hop up and fly into the window and hitting their beaks! I mean again and again and again. I shut the window shade to try to deter them, and the next morning I was awakened by at least one if not both doing the same thing to our front hall’s balcony window (which means it’s a big window with no shade to pull). It seems to be one bird mostly now on this big window with HUNDREDS of marks from his beak hitting (note: there is another bird that also clings for a minute to a nearby window’s screen, maybe a smarter family member). Anyway, we are worried about this poor bird; I can hear it as I’m typing, flying up and hitting the window repeatedly—it’s not like an accident. I think he wants IN like no tomorrow. Can we help him?

    • This is not an unusual phenomenon, but your sparrow sounds more determined than most. It isn’t that he wants in, it’s that he’s seeing his reflection in your windows. (You’ll also see birds repeatedly throwing themselves at car side mirrors for the same reason.) It’s thought that the birds are trying to attack their reflections, although our understanding of birds’ relationship to mirrors is still poor. (If you type “mirrors” into the search bar on this site, you’ll find a few posts on this.)

      Can you try taping something to the big balcony window? I know you can’t cover all of it, but you could try something scary – a big-eyed face, an image of an owl – in the hopes of keeping him away. (Oddly enough, there is an essay by David Sedaris that describes exactly this situation; he dissuades the bird by putting images of faces in the windows.)

      The bird *should* stop on his own once his breeding-season hormones stop raging, but that could be a while, so it would be preferable to get him to stop sooner!

  56. Have been delighted by watching a Junco build a nest, then lay 4 eggs and successfully fledge the 4 chicks in late April early May. We’re roughly 10 miles west of Portland, Oregon. The nest was build in a large live plant pot on our second story deck. Now, though I understand it is rare, the Junco has reinforced / rebuilt the nest – and deposited 4 more eggs a few days ago. She is now incubating/brooding them.

  57. Hi and here is my update on our chipping sparrow issue—your idea of putting posters of faces or owls, etc., was perfect. As a compromise, my husband put up wrapping paper (white with several colors of polka dots) and that seems to have done the trick! We have not heard him throwing himself at the window since! Thank you so much for the advice. As of just now, he and his buddy have moved to the windows on the back side of the house….so at least those have blinds I can lower! Thanks again, Julie

  58. I have a birdhouse in the shape of a buoy but I placed in my garden this year. Chickadees made it their home and now have two babies inside😊
    What I’m concerned about is that tomorrow is supposed to be 95° and the birdhouse is in the direct afternoon sun. I feel helpless for those poor little babies inside is there anything I can do to help keep them cool if I move the shepherd stick into The shade whill the mom and dad come back to it?

    • (Sorry for the delayed response!) The chickadees will likely be fine in the heat. Cavity-nesting birds often nest in spots that get temporarily very hot, and they don’t seem to have problems with it. However, if the shade is very nearby and there are more extremely hot days expected, it might not hurt to shift the birdhouse slightly into the shade. If you do this, keep an eye out to make sure the parents return to the nest. (I would expect them to, but in case they don’t, you can just move the birdhouse back.)

  59. Sorry, I could not read through all of the questions and replies to see if this is redundant. Over the winter/spring a Steller jay built a nest just under the overhang of my garage on a drain pipe. I’ve been watching them for maybe 2 months. The babies are not tiny. Their heads, with beaks, appear to be 1″ to 1.5″ long. they are distinctly blue. they are moving around in the nest. The mama jay has not been seen since yesterday. I have cats and the nest is poorly positioned should a baby fall out, my cats have easy access AND they are aware of the nest. What to do if mama does not return? I thought that maybe one of the cats got her although I have walked my yard and have seen no feathers or remains. There is no local Wildlife Rescue near enough that I know of? Worried and don’t know what to do. Thank you.

    • Hi Jane,
      You have two different issues to address depending on whether the parents have abandoned the nest. Have you seen any sign of a parent feeding the chicks since you last wrote?

      If you are confident that the parents have abandoned the nest, the issue is that of taking care of the chicks yourself (if you’re willing). Let me know if this is the case and I can give advice. Also, if you send me your approximate location I can look for wildlife rescuers near you, too – that would be better for the chicks.

      If the parents have not abandoned, then the issue is preventing your cats from eating the chicks once they fledge. If it is at all possible to keep the cats indoors for a few days when the chicks first leave the nest, you would likely be saving their lives. A newly-fledged chick is not a good flier, and cats are EXCELLENT hunters. Your cats would almost certainly kill at least one chick, maybe all. Even a few days without the cats would make a huge difference, because the chicks grow quickly and would soon be able to get up high in a tree where they would be safer.

  60. Hi there, I found a fledging baby magpie in a dangerous and high populated cat area, parents didn’t return.He can’t fly yet but I don’t think he’s far off. I have been hand feeding him, he’s able to perch and a chirpy chappy, my question is how and when can I set him free and will he survive due to the hand rearing? How long do fledgings sleep as he seems to sleep alot!

    • First, I’d strongly encourage you to try to find out if there is a wildlife rescue near you (googling “[your location] wildlife rescue” would do it), and to bring him there. Here’s why I recommend wildlife rescues over individual hand-rearing:

      If that isn’t an option, here are some important things:
      1. Diet – you need to feed him a variety of things so that he is healthy and so that he learns how to feed himself. Are you feeding directly (i.e. he gapes, you place food in his mouth) or is he picking up food on his own?
      2. Give him enough space so that he can take short practice flights, ideally with multiple perches to fly to. He’ll learn to fly on his own, but he does need space to practice. That practice will also build up his flight muscles.

      Fledglings can sleep a lot, yes. Pretty much his only job right now is to eat and grow, and sleeping saves energy so he can use it to grow.

      Again, the best thing you can do for him is to find a wildlife rescue! But if not, respond to my question about how he is eating and I’ll write back with the appropriate diet.

      • I am just reading this after having replied to your other e-mail. Yes, the mother returned….
        The cats are used to going out at night and sleeping during the day, most, but not all of them sleep inside. One cat isn’t really mine, but it eats here and then goes out, It is mostly an outdoor cat and I don’t think it would tolerate being in all night. Wouldn’t the birds be sleeping at night? I could try to keep the cats in a night or two, but I think that they would complain. Still, I would like to keep the birds alive, there are 4 youngsters.

        • That’s great that the mother returned!
          Any amount that you can keep the cats inside will help. Yes, the birds will sleep at night, so if you feel you must let the cats out, that’s the time to do it: the cats will only find the birds if they happen to stumble directly on them, rather than being drawn to their movement during the day. Still, even birds sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and shuffle around a bit. However much you can stand to keep the cats inside, especially right after the babies leave the nest, do it – any additional bit will help.

        • P.S. My apologies if I’ve responded to you somewhere else and forgotten – I get a lot of questions this time of year and it can be difficult to keep everybody’s situation straight!

  61. Hi!
    I wrote to you before but was wondering when I would get a response. I’m concerned about the two baby House Finches on my balcony! It was 104 degrees outside today. They choose to stay in the inside corner of the balcony. I understand because it is probably safest there. The problem is, that is where the air conditioner is in my Apartment and when it turns on, it blows hot air there! This is the 3rd day, since they left their nest! I do see the oarents coming but I am worried about them! I need to know if you think they have a chance of survival! We have Crows, Ravens and Squirrels out here , so I think they are safe up here, on the 3rd floor balcony. Thank you for any advice and confidence you can give me! I really appreciate it!

    • At this age, while they may not be fully flighted, they can certainly hop around quite well; so if that corner gets too hot and there is a better place available, they will move. Is there anywhere else shaded on your balcony? If not, it wouldn’t hurt to put out something to cast some shade, just in case they are staying by the AC because it’s shaded (so, safe) even though it’s too hot. It also wouldn’t hurt to put out a shallow dish of water if it’s so hot there, so they can drink and bathe. But house finches are hardy birds – I think they’ll be fine.

      • Thank you so much for replying! I went out to check on the babies and one flew off the balcony! The smallest of the batch is still out on my balcony! You were right! They moved away from the air conditioner! I took your advice and put a small plate with water. Do you think the parents will still come to take care of this baby? Should I go downstairs to try and find the other baby and bring it back up? I think it got scared when I lived the pot they were behind! I know I’m stressing way too much over this! As a mom and grandmother, I guess it’s just in me to want to take care of them!☺️
        Thank you in advance for your reply and support!

        • You don’t need to do anything – they’ll be fine :-) The parents will be able to find both chicks, and if one is somewhere the parents don’t like, the parents will lead it somewhere else. Raising house finches is exactly what house finches are great at – you really don’t need to worry about them (although it’s understandable that you do).

          • I’m sorry to bother you again! The little House Finches (smallest) left on my balcony is dying! I feel so, so bad! I don’t know what to do! You can tell it is almost gone! It’s laying sort of on it’s side and can barley lift it’s head. What shall I do?
            Thank you!

          • This reply is too late to do any good – sorry for the delay. There isn’t much you could have done, except try to take it to a wildlife rehabilitator, and even that would have been a long shot – by the time they are visibly in bad shape, there’s not much hope. I don’t know what happened; it may have had a hidden developmental abnormality. The parents are extremely unlikely to abandon a healthy chick. I’m sorry you had to witness this, and very sorry for your little finch. Unfortunately in the wild these things happen; but that doesn’t make it nice for anyone involved.

          • Hi!
            Thank you for the reply! Unfortunately, the baby Finch on my balcony died , right after I sent you a message! The parents were trying to get it to stand up but the baby died! I have learned a lot from watching these babies. I was fortunate to see two families in the same nest! The baby that died was the smallest of all of the babies. It was very tough to watch, feeling so helpless! I prayed that it would be gone before nightfall. I didn’t want it to suffer anymore! God answered my prayers! I felt really bad for the parents. They returned the following day to look for the baby! I am so impressed as to how they are so devoted! It’s a beautiful thing!
            Thank you for all the support!
            I have Hummingbirds on my balcony also! I have a branch and feeder hung up on the ceiling of my balcony. I’m hoping they nest but My understanding is they are more private!

          • Ah, that does suggest something was really wrong with the baby – with its parents there, it would have survived if it could have. Its being so small also suggests something developmentally wrong.
            I hope your hummingbirds nest too! Their nests can be pretty hard to find since they try to hide them and they are so small.

  62. There is a male cardinal in our parking lot that flies from side mirror to side mirror on the 5 cars in the lot, pecking at his reflection. He has been doing this every day, nearly all day for approximately two weeks. Any idea why?

    • This is actually a rather common thing: in the breeding season, male birds get all riled up about defending their territories and can mistake their own reflections for rivals. I’ve written a few posts about this – you can find them by typing “mirrors” into the blog search bar on the top right.

  63. Hi! I’m Emily and I love this website! I was reading one post about birds then I loved them I can’t stop reading about birds! Also could you explain more about birds skeletons? Thanks!

  64. We have had a Junco nest twice in the past 7 weeks in two different hanging baskets. She laid four eggs the first time and sat on them for three full weeks then abandoned that hanging basket for the one hanging next to it! She built a new nest, laid four more eggs and has been faithfully sitting on them for the past 26 days. We have not disturbed her but are at a complete loss as to what is happening. Any info would really be appreciated. We feel so badly that her efforts seem so futile. Thanks.

    • Strange! Junco eggs should hatch 12-14 days after the onset of incubation, so both nests are clearly duds. Either she hasn’t mated at all (possible, but unlikely – females are quite sought-after!), she mated with an infertile male, or she herself is infertile (but still capable of laying eggs). I think the third option is maybe the most likely, since female birds often mate with multiple males just in case one of them is infertile; but it’s possible her mate is infertile and she is being unusually faithful to him.

      This is maybe the first situation I’ve ever heard of where you might *want* a cowbird to swoop in and lay some eggs…

  65. I’ve read that it is uncommon, but not unusual for juncos to reuse a successful nest. We have a hanging basket above a deck that had a new nest built late in the spring. The eggs hatched, the chicks fledged and within two days a different female took over the empty nest. We now have four new chicks that hatched a couple of days ago. So two questions…

    First, is it odd for a different female to take over an empty nest? (Note we can tell the difference in that the first bird had a very distinctive drooped wing and some other markings, and an obviously different ‘personality’ than the new one. The first was oddly ‘friendly’ – she would get very close to us, and seemed generally unconcerned about people. The new one is all business and is much more stand-offish.)

    Second, one day after the new chicks hatched, I saw the male around and he was mating with the new female as she was coming and going from the nest. Is that typical?

    Thanks for your really terrific site – I’ve learned a great deal!

    • I had a double nester this spring. 4 chicks in each brood in the same nest. 2nd brood did not survive after being attacked by a Cowbird. Sad.

      • Just took a peek into the nest, and all four newly hatched chicks are gone – the nest is bare. No idea what could have happened. It was clear that the female junco wasn’t really feeding them for the first day or two. When the first brood in that spot hatched back in June, the male and female were in overdrive going back and forth with bugs. There was very little activity on this brood, and the chicks themselves seemed listless and weren’t really moving much when we peeked in on them. Weird. The hanging basket is well protected about 7-8 feet off the ground. Have never seen any cowbirds in the area, and aside from perhaps a crow, can’t really think of another local bird that would have grabbed them.

  66. Last Saturday, July 1, two American robin fledglings left the nest above the door of our screened porch. This was the second nest at the same location this season for the parents. First nest emptied on April 27, and all four babies left the same day. I watched them the first week, and as far as I know all servived. That same week, four baby robins hatched in a nest in our satellite dish, and I enjoyed watching them grow and fledge. In early June the second nest appeared above the screen door, and this time there were five eggs. Two hatched on June 18 and two on June 19. The fourth baby was very tiny and only survived about 24 hours. It disappeared from the nest. The fifth egg did not hatch. The three remaining babies thrived and at fledging last weekend at 13 days were the largest babies of the three nests, with well developed wings. I stayed away from the nest after day 12 and watched it from a window, hoping the babies wouldn’t fledge during the rainy, stormy weather forecasted. Well the first baby left just before the first storm came through. I went outside and when he saw me, he lifted off and began flying toward the back of the house. He was about 6-8 feet off the ground and stayed airborne for at least 50 feet. I went back inside, thinking the parents would find him and hide him. Around 5 pm the second baby left during a rainstorm. I watch it go into a small tree and a parent brought food to it. Around 8 pm as it was getting dark, I saw it come away from the tree and join a parent under another tree. Early the next morning, the remaining baby left. We left the house early and I didn’t have time to look for any of them. Upon our return, about two hours later, we saw a parent at the corner of the yard with a baby following. As we turned into the drive, I saw two squirrels following them. As soon as the car was parked I got out to see if the baby was ok. The parent was there but not the baby. I found the two squirrels across the road in a ditch but not the baby. That afternoon, I noticed strange behavior from the parents. Both were just going in circles on the ground and looking all around. The mother came back to the nest with a worm. I walked around the yard and didn’t hear any chirping from the bushes like I had with fledglings from previous nests. Didn’t see any poop sacs or any sign of babies. As the afternoon turned late and the parents never left with the food in their beaks, I began to suspect something had happened to all the babies. I walked around again and looked through the bushes and small trees and found nothing. The next day the parents again circled the yard with worms in their beaks but never left to deposit them. Again the mama came back to the nest site with a worm. We had removed the nest after finding mites in it. It was heart wrenching to watch the parents just circling the yard and constantly looking around, searching for their babies. The next day, the mama brought nesting material back to the nest site to build a new nest. She made a few trips and stopped. Later that afternoon I saw what appeared to be a baby bird across the road near the site I had seen the baby walking behind the mama. From my next door neighbors yard, I saw a bird that I think was the father fly to meet the baby and together they flew behind my house. I hope it was them but can’t be sure. But since then, the parents have stopped pacing in my yard. But this morning, the mama started working on the new nest again. What do you think happened. Dud the babies get lost in the rain and storms that continued off and on fledging day? These parents took excellent care of the babies, and it’s been so sad to watch them search and wait. At one point, I saw the mama going through each of the bushes in the yard as though she was searching.

  67. A dark-eyed junco pair built a nest in a hanging basket of geraniums this summer. It wasn’t the greatest location because of our proximity, but we’ve tried hard to cause as little disruption as possible. Everything seemed to be going well. We watched the parents coming and going and could just barely see little gaping beaks when we watched from a window with binoculars. Then yesterday afternoon, the juncos suddenly became very agitated and, perching on the basket or nearby oak, started making what seemed like alarm calls. I did not see any feeding behavior–just a lot of frantic calling. This went on for hours. I finally climbed to a high perch and peered at the nest with my binocs; no movement. After much time, I pulled down the basket and found three lovely plump chicks covered with feather but very dead. I am heartbroken for the little pair. What happened? We do have house sparrows, spotted and California towhees, and other birds in our yard, but I did not see obvious wounds. Should I remove the chicks? Might the juncos use the same again?

    • That’s very sad, I’m so sorry. It’s strange that something killed the chicks but did not eat them. My only thought is that perhaps the house sparrows did it: they can be very aggressive to other birds sometimes, and perhaps didn’t want the juncos competing with them for food. I’m not very satisfied by that explanation though. Certainly *something* killed the chicks: the parents’ alarm calls indicate that; and the fact that they didn’t approach the nest suggests that they judged the predator to pose a danger to them too (which house sparrows probably wouldn’t) – but anything like that should have eaten the chicks. It’s a mystery.

      It’s unlikely that the parents will reuse the nest even if you do remove the chicks, since they don’t usually reuse failed nests.

      I hope your future experiences with nesting birds are happier!

  68. For the past few weeks I have watched the process of a pair of House Wrens nest in a bucket inside my screened porch. I saw the 4 eggs in the nest somewhere around Thursday or Friday, July 6th or 7th. The eggs hatched on Thursday or Friday, July13th or 14th. I watched the mother and father wren work their butt’s off searching for food and bringing it back to the nest to feed the babies. They grew pretty fast. Yesterday, Monday July 24th, the babies left the nest and were finding their way around the screened porch and in the washroom and a couple outside in the carport and close to the house. This morning they all made it out of the screened porch and were close to the house learning to fly and trying to make their way. The mother was a good mother feeding them and trying to raise them. Then about lunchtime today I heard the mother chirping frantically for a good 15-20 minutes straight. I figured that their was a predator in the area. I went outside and spotted the mother in the tree frantically chirping away. Then I finally went back in the house and went back outside shortly after to see a brown Hawk rattling around in the bush along my nextdoor neighbor’s house and fly out of it with what was probably one of the baby birds in it’s claws and up high into a tree across the street. The mother Wren was quiet. Later the mother Wren came over to along side of my screened porch and carport chirping for its babies but there was no answer. Then she was gone. I feel so daggone sad and really feel for the mother. I think the Hawk must have gotten all 4 of the little babies. They were out of their nest just 24 hours, if that. Man, I really feel for that mother Wren as I watched the whole process over the past 3 weeks or so, then the babies were taken from her so fast. I don’t know what it’s like to be a bird, but I would think that the mother Wren has got to be devastated to have done so well birthing those babies and feeding them and protecting them and trying to teach them to get around after leaving the nest yesterday and then have this big brown Hawk swoop in and take her babies. I know it’s nature, but sometimes nature really sucks. Thanks for listening, I mean reading.

    • Having a good view of nature is a privilege but also a risk – sometimes you see things like this. I am sorry for you and for your wrens. The first few days out of the nest are the most dangerous time of a bird’s life, and the survival rate is only around 50%. It is maybe some small consolation that the hawk almost certainly took the wrens to feed to his own chicks? It is hard on the mother wren, I think; I have seen birds seem to grieve for their dead chicks. But she will try again, and hopefully have better luck next time.

      Is it possible that one or more of the chicks might have successfully fled the area? With their parents’ warning, the chicks would either have hunkered down to hide, or would have scurried off in hopes of finding safety. The mother chirping near the house was certainly looking for one or more missing babies, but perhaps not all of them went missing? Particularly since it sounds like she gave up the search fairly quickly – that could mean that she had another chick to tend to, hidden somewhere else.

  69. My husband and I have had the pleasure and excitement of watching a pair of phoebes make a nest, lay eggs and hatch out four little ones. The nest is under the eaves right by the front door. We have a rancher and so we have been able to covertly observe them from about 2 feet. We have been their second set of parents, telling our visitors to keep away from the front door when they arrive. The birds have grown very well and 2 days ago we saw 2 of the birds stand up on their back legs and flap their wings. We thought they were going to fly after their mother who had just paid a visit to the nest. Unfortunately, this morning our lawn guy came up to the front door and knocked on it. The babies immediately flew off and there are none left in the nest. Both parents had been around the nest about 10 minutes beforehand. My question is whether the parents will be able to find their babies if they hadn’t seen this incident. I feel very saddened that our nest experience has ended this way and we are both worried that the babies will have no food or protection from predators.

    • Absolutely, the parents should be able to find the chicks just fine. The fact that the chicks could fly from the nest means that they probably would have left the nest naturally within the next few days, especially since the disturbance that caused them to fly away was so minor. (Very young chicks will try to leave the nest if something really terrifying happens, like a predator trying to eat them, but a human just walking underneath should only prompt babies to fly if they are ready to fly anyway.)

      The parents will have been expecting the chicks to leave the nest fairly soon, so when they find the empty nest, they will fly around calling for the chicks and the chicks will call back. This is a very normal thing for the birds and they shouldn’t have any trouble with it. Maybe when the chicks get a bit better at flying you’ll see them around again – you can tell them by their browner feathers, compared to the adults’ more black plumage.

  70. Thank you so much for your encouraging reply. I am sitting here with blurry eyes because of your lovely comments. We had never thought of a human startling the babies as a minor incident and we are now very hopeful for their survival. My husband has been laughing because I put that two of the baby birds were standing on their back legs. Well I did think that they were pretty special.

  71. Have our third junco nest of the season on our small deck. First one 4 chicks, 3 did ok, 2nd 4 chicks all killed by something after 10 days in the re-used nest. 3rd brood, 3 chicks. All look very tiny after 3 days since hatching. No sign of the male. Can a single female raise them alone? Anything we can do to help her?

    • Yes, a single female junco can raise a nest. These chicks will have a bit of a hard time since they have the double disadvantage of a single parent and it being late in the breeding season.

      You might consider putting some food out for her (with the potential downside that it could attract other birds that might disturb the nest or attract predators – need to be careful here, and if you start seeing House Sparrows, crows, hawks, or any mammals around, discontinue the food). Luxurious, fatty foods like sunflower seeds would let her get her own food needs taken care of quickly, giving her more time to forage for the chicks. Live mealworms in a dish would be even better because she could feed those directly to the chicks (junco chicks can’t eat seeds) – you can buy live mealworms at most pet stores. Don’t put the food directly next to the nest, of course; again, you don’t want to attract attention to its location.

      Also, if it’s hot and dry where you are, juncos love a little dish of water in a safe spot for bathing. This might not directly help her chicks, but it would probably make her happy.

  72. I was reading your post on fledglings, and I wonder if the percentage in the quoted sentence below is an average of all birds, or only juncos. I’ve been thinking of raptor mortality, and become curious if size of birds and associated nesting efforts make a difference in success rate of the fledglings. “Fledglings are at one of the most dangerous time in their lives, facing an average mortality rate of 42% over just a week or two. Most of that mortality happens early, just after the little guys have left the nest.”

    • Good question! That statistic is based on passerines, your standard songbird-type birds. Raptor fledglings don’t face quite the same challenges, as they are (usually) too big to be eaten by most things, and they are generally fed by their parents for a long period – which is necessary, as learning to catch your own prey is difficult. I can’t give you an exact figure without doing a literature search, but I’d guess raptor fledglings have a lower mortality rate than passerines, but still a substantial one. Learning to hunt is a dangerous thing – for example, a young osprey made famous by a Bay Area nestcam recently died from injuries sustained from a poorly-angled dive into the water.

      • Yes, the recent deaths of the young osprey and another young peregrine falcon on UCB campus are exactly the reason I ask the question! Thank you for the reply. In my gleaning of diverse sources, I compare osprey, and Cooper’s hawk (chosen because of their very different sizes), and they seem to follow that bigger survives longer: 53% for osprey in first year (in Sweden), 22% for Cooper’s in first winter!

        • Interesting! Yes I was following the Cal peregrines too – that one wasn’t a natural death, but since most raptors don’t live in entirely natural habitats, I suppose we can’t discount those.
          Usually larger animals live longer (and so have lower mortality rates), but birds do have some notable exceptions. Barn owls have about the same mortality rates as your average songbird, while hummingbirds can live 12 years.

  73. My cockatiel has laid three eggs where the draw goes I’m worried when the chicks are born they don’t fall out

    • Has your cockatiel been hanging out with any male cockatiels? If not, then the eggs won’t hatch. Female pet birds often lay eggs even when they don’t have a mate, but without a mate, the eggs won’t be fertile. She’ll sit on them for a few weeks, get bored, and then you can remove them. (Don’t remove them before she stops sitting on them – that can prompt her to lay replacement eggs right away, and you don’t want her laying lots of eggs, because it depletes her calcium stores, which she needs for strong bones.) Also, make sure she has a source of calcium in her cage, like a cuttlefish bone.

      If there’s a chance that the eggs *will* hatch, you might want to make a little nest for them to put where she laid them, so that they will be safer. Do some more googling – I’m sure there’s a lot of info on the internet about raising baby cockatiels, and it’s not my area of expertise.

  74. HI, We have a sweet chickadee roosting under our covered deck every nite. Is there anything we can do to encourage him/her to do this all winter. Can we provide some kind of nesting materials to keep him warm or ???/ Thank you. I love reading and learning about birds. tHank you for all you do to help these beautiful creatures.

  75. Hello its me again! Once again just saying I love your posts! Also everything you write is well written and the pages are made very well your doing an amazing job I can’t wait for your next post! I know this question is random and don’t waste your time answering this if you don’t need to!
    But are pets birds hard to handle? (I want a Budgie if that helps)
    And I will be able to provide two hours or a little more of attention at the max.
    I also know what to feed it,what not to feed.
    Plus what toys to get and not to get
    Thank you!
    Once again your doing amazing!

  76. Some of the humming birds that cruz to my pad will pass up the bush they love to go to my lawn. They’ll either hover over the grass fer 1-2 mins. or do a zig-zag pattern across it or sometimes both. What are they doing?

  77. Hi, we have a bird that has made a nest in our outdoor light. They also made a nest last year but we didn’t notice until we were putting up Christmas lights. So she’s been working hard all week building her nest. The light is above our front door. Our question is should we leave the light on at night or leave it off all the time. It’s a slim 40w bulb and a fairly large light cover. We don’t want to bother her. We are not sure what kind of bird it is. Thanks for your help!

    • How neat! When this happened last year, you presumably turned the light on at night and nothing bad happened to the nest, since you then found it later (i.e. it didn’t catch on fire or anything!). So you can have the light on without *major* disaster, at least.
      You say the nest is in the light – not on top, but inside? If it’s situated such that the light would be on the chicks, it would be best to turn it off at night. Urban birds can live with human lights, but it’s best to let them follow natural day-night cycles when you can. Overall I’d say best to not turn it on; but if there’s a very compelling reason to turn it on, I don’t think anything terrible will happen.
      I hope you get a chance to figure out what kind of bird it is!

  78. Had a huge wind storm 2 day’s ago, and one if the wild junco’s I feed, has been not landing well, and circling to left, when in the ground. Is this possible from it being knocked to the ground in the storm, or maybe, I was thinking a neurological issue.

    • Without having the bird in hand, it’s hard to say. It certainly sounds like it could be a neurological issue, and it is possible that the junco sustained a knock on the head during the storm; it’s know that birds can get injured in severe weather. It’s also possible that the bird injured something on one side that is causing the odd behavior – an injured wing, strained wing muscle, etc. Either way, there’s a chance that it may heal over time. I hope it does!

  79. This is probably going to sound ridiculous, BUT… A pair of robins built their nest in the overhang of our barn – about 8 feet off the ground. Mama laid her eggs last week and I’m extremely worried about the fledgling stage.They will hop out onto the concrete landing and be instantly devoured by one of two cats (or both). There is no place for them to hide at all. I understand the whole circle of life, survival of the fittest thing, blah blah, (and I reject it all if it’s happening right under my nose) but these little guys have zero chance of surviving. So, I’m wondering if hanging a basket under the nest to catch them when they hop out (too deep for them to hop out of, but shallow enough so they can be fed) would be an option. I did this last Spring for a robin fledgling I found at the end of my driveway. The parents found him and all seemed well. I just don’t know if I’d be interfering too much. I think about them day and night and am dreading this phase. Please advise, and thank you!! :) -Mindy

    • Hi Mindy,
      It sounds like the crucial thing is to get the fledglings from the barn to somewhere with cover, away from the cats. (As for the cats being “survival of the fittest,” this is a common misconception: cats aren’t natural predators here – they’ve been introduced and supported by humans – so anything they do is as unnatural as if a human did it. I have a post about it here:

      The best option would be to keep the cats indoors from a few days before you think the robins might fledge to at least 5 days after they fledge. This would allow the robins to do everything naturally and give the fledglings time to grow their feathers out to the point where they have a hope of escaping the cats.

      If that is not possible, your basket plan may work. (It’s better than nothing.) It would need to be a pretty big basket; the fledglings won’t be able to fly, but they can do a sort of jump-flutter-fall that might get them a decent distance from the nest. You’d want to then release the fledglings somewhere that the cats don’t hang out, with bushes and vegetation for the fledglings to hide in, but not so far that the parents don’t find them again. (If the fledglings call from the basket as you move them, there’s a good chance that the parents will follow that sound to wherever you take them.) This will be a tricky balance, and there’s a real risk that the cats will eat the babies anyway. Recent fledglings can’t really fly or move fast, so they’re easy prey for cats. But if the cats absolutely can’t be contained, then this at least gives the babies some chance.

      I hope it works out! Let me know what happens.

  80. Not a reply but yet another questions. Black birds on my patio hold heads straight up in the rain. Are they drinking.?..

  81. Question. Hope we did the right thing. Evidently a quail pair nested in a plant on our patio. The patio has a low seating wall about 3 feet high. The chicks hatched and evidently left the nest this morning following their parents around. After a while, it seemed that the parents were frustrated that they could jump up on the wall and leave; but, the chicks couldn’t fly yet. We worried that the chicks wouldn’t be able to escape if a predator got into the patio area. We were able to capture the chicks and place them over the wall. The parents were in the bushes and we believe they led the chicks away; but, we couldn’t see them directly. We’re not sure if the quail chicks would have a better chance if we’d left them on the patio and waited for them to learn to fly or getting them back into the wild. We border a wild area with lots of brush and wood scrub (Irvine, CA).

    • You did the right thing! Quail chicks, like ducklings and turkey chicks, leave the nest within a day after hatching and follow their parents around for several weeks. During this time the chicks can’t fly – they just run around and rely on secrecy and their parents for protection. It was very good that you helped the chicks escape so they can now follow their parents around.

  82. A Junco made a nest in one of my large planters. The nest was hidden by thick poppie stalks/leaves. I discovered it by accidentally flushing the parent bird when watering. I peeked in the nest and saw the new hatched chicks. Its been hot for two days and today I found both chicks dead outside the nest ( an inch or so outside). Is overheating one of the possible causes of hatchling mortality? Sad and blue the Junco chicks didn’t make it and flap in the bird baths all summer.

    • Overheating can kill baby birds, but it takes pretty extreme heat, and often the parents can protect the chicks (they will sit or stand over the nest to shield the chicks). It would be an odd cause of death in this case, since the nest was shaded by vegetation.

      My best guess would be that there might not have been enough small insects to feed the chicks; it’s getting pretty late in the breeding season now, and in hot dry areas, there often aren’t many bugs later in the summer. A brood with just two chicks (juncos usually have 4-5) sounds like a late-season brood – the parents probably already raised one set of chicks, and tried to squeeze in a second batch, but apparently this year the conditions weren’t right. I’m sorry for your little chicks.

      • Thanks for the speedy response. There were unhatched eggs pushed out of the nest which seemed odd (I counted two). I’ll read up and see if I can develop better spots to entice the ground nesters with protected niches. T As soon as I turn over the leaves and material in the compost pile its mazing how quickly robins and junco’s belly-yp to the table. The neating spots might be a trickier enterprise. Lots of activity in the bird baths and all manner of participants – quite the show to see a parade of robins, junco’s, kinglets, and chickadees having a sploosh and preen. In any event, thanks for the quick response.

  83. I found a tiny dove that had just hatched. I’d love to share my pictures of how I raised him, what I fed him and what to expect. How can I do this?

    • Hi Anita, I don’t think there’s a way to post pictures in the comments on wordpress. There may be other places better set up for that – I believe there are several forums about caring for baby pigeons, for example, that would certainly be interested. (It’s very impressive that you were able to raise the dove; they’re very delicate little birds!) This site isn’t really meant to encourage folks to raise birds on their own, since that’s illegal in most cases in the US.

  84. A couple of juncos are starting to build a nest in a bike helmet hanging upside down in a parking garage underneath my office. (location 37.428512, -122.161979 but 10 feet underground).

    I’m trying to decide whether to turn the helmet over to prevent them from nesting there. Last summer, a pair of juncos nested in the helmet and their fledglings died. A colleague found them; they weren’t eaten or killed, and our best guess is that the nest was too far from any sort of natural habitat. It’s probably 15 feet from the exit of the garage, then up a ramp to the closest bushes and dirt. The fledgelings last summer were getting food from the parents, and were able to fly from the ground in the garage back up to the nest. Our best guess is that they somehow didn’t figure out how to fend for themselves, maybe because there was no good cover or place to learn how to search for food. (As you can tell, we’re not bird experts and are just trying to figure things out). If so, that would seem to mean we should prevent juncos from nesting there again.

    Does this interpretation sound reasonable? Would you recommend preventing juncos from nesting in the same spot again? Or would you recommend that we let them use the helmet again and hope for the best?

    Thank you in advance for any advice you can give!

    • I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I’m still conflicted. Generally my attitude is that the birds know best, and we just need to get out of their way. However, the mysteriously dead fledglings are concerning. Given that you’re in a location that I’m personally familiar with, and know is full of good junco nesting habitat, I think I’d recommend either turning the helmet upside down to prevent nesting, or moving the helmet closer to the entrance to the garage (or even outside the entrance). If this was happening somewhere without good nesting habitat, my answer might be different; but in this case I feel confident that the juncos have other good options for nesting.

      (Just FYI, it’s okay to disrupt nesting *until* there are eggs in the nest. Once the eggs appear, it’s illegal to disrupt the nest.)

      I hope your juncos do better this year! Thanks for looking out for them.

      • Thank you so much for your advice. I flipped the helmet over to prevent nesting.
        (They had just begun to work on the nest this year and there were no eggs…thank you for pointing out that it would be illegal to disrupt the nest if there were any).

        We’ll cross our fingers and hope they find a better nesting spot. I’m glad to hear that you think that’s likely given the abundant open space nearby.

  85. Hello.I have fond a bird nest in my hanging basket near to the garage door. After research it seems like it is a dark eye junco nest. It has an egg inside, but no trace of parents. It looks like the egg it us deserted. The nest wasn’t there one week ago when I watered the flowers. What should I do? Can I take care of the egg somehow?

    • There’s not much you can do I’m afraid; even if you could incubate the egg (which would not be easy), your chances of successfully raising a new-hatched baby junco are very low. If the egg was abandoned it likely doesn’t contain what you would think of as a baby bird so much as a few cells and lots of yolk, so it’s not so much that a baby bird died as that the possibility of baby bird didn’t quite work out. Hopefully the parents found another place they liked better to nest and raise a family.

  86. A few weeks ago, a mama junco just laid 4 eggs in a nest in one of our hanging flower baskets. Only 3 hatched and we just had all the babies leave the nest three days ago. One of the babies died between a hot rock and the fence (it was record hot here in WA). It was a very dark day for me. Anyway, I’d been watering the basket with a squirt bottle around them, but I thought I would remove the nest now since I read they don’t reuse nests. That way, I could water with a hose again. Well, mom and dad just flew around me, squawking and chirping like I was disrupting their babies, even though all are gone. Are they still looking for the one that died because they think he is just missing? Should I leave the nest alone and if so, how long?

    p.s. A Google search about the lives of juncos brought me to your site, but then I saw your name. We might be family. My Dad is from the San Jose area.

  87. I had a pair of Dark Eyed Juncos who are…or were… nesting and gave birth to 2 hatchlings in a Black Eyed Susan vine hanging on my from porch. Both male and female seemed to be attending to the chicks, who I could see are just starting to feather. I have been religious about not disturbing them by not even using my front door. When I noticed just today, no female in or around the nest all day, I peeked in. I think the nest has been abandoned and the chicks have died. The location of the hanging plant could not be safer from squirrels.. A cat could not get to the nest but, of course, could have killed the female while she was foraging for food. Any other ideas what might have happened? Thank you. I am heartbroken.

    • Oh no, I’m so sorry! If the chicks are dead in the nest, then no predator got to them. It could be that one of the parents was killed (although often a single parent will continue to raise the chicks if that happens). It could also be that something was wrong with the chicks developmentally, or that the parents weren’t finding enough food for them. This is quite late in the year for a junco nest, and two chicks is a very small brood for juncos (although it is normal for late nests to have fewer chicks); it may be that several of these things combined, e.g. one parent was killed, and then the other had trouble finding enough food. Chicks hatched this late in the year have rather bad chances of survival compared to earlier chicks even if everything goes well, so the parents would probably be more willing to abandon them if something went wrong.

      You did everything you could, avoiding disturbing them; you should be proud of that even though it didn’t work out for the birds this time. Maybe they will come back next year and try again.

  88. Hi Katie! I have a hanging geranium pot on my deck. There are four nestlings approx 10 days old inside and growing by the day. The pot hangs about 5’6” above the floor of the deck. When they are ready to leave the nest what will happen? The pot is only about 14” diameter – and the geranium is taking up much of the space. Will the simply get out of the nest and then soon fly out of the basket, or will the fall to the ground? The parents are in and out caring for the babies all day and the nest seems well protected from predators from below and also from above. I’m just worried about the transition that comes next. Will they need to get back in after they get out?

    • Hi Marleyse,
      They will probably do a combination of flying and falling – a sort of wing-flapping diagonal fall that won’t hurt them, but won’t take them very far either. They won’t need to get back up into the nest, but they will need to find places to hide after they leave. If there are bushes or vegetation nearby, they’ll probably head for that. If there isn’t anywhere to hide, the parents may lead them farther away to a hiding spot.
      If you have an outdoor cat or dog, this would be the time to keep them indoors/supervised for as long as you can stand to; right after they leave the nest is the most dangerous time for baby birds.
      Good luck to your little bird family!

  89. We have a chickadee that sleeps high up under our deck every night but only during the summer months. He/she has done this for 3 years now with no problems. Lately he has been waking up and tries to get into our house. He flies around on the deck and won’t go back to his sleeping spot. Not sure what to do? Usually nothing wakes him up. We let our dog in and out and go out there ourselves and he would just be oblivious ot everything.

    • Has anything changed recently, especially regarding the pattern and timing of lights in the house? Trying to get into your house sounds to me like something to do either with wanting to head toward light, or with seeing his reflection in the windows (which would only be “new” if your patterns of which lights were on/off had changed).

      Another, more benign possibility is that he’s catching bugs in a way that makes it look like he’s trying to get in. Besides that, my only guess would be that he’s getting less sleepy/more fidgety in his old age.

      Are you worried that he’ll fly into a window? As long as he doesn’t do that, it doesn’t seem like it’s necessarily a problem that he’s less sleepy now.

      • Hi, Thanks for the reply. Nothing has changed that we know of. I think he is flying toward the light so, when he does this, we turn the lights off inside and turn the one on outside as once he is off his perching spot he can’t see in the dark. We have to wait til he flies into a spot where we think he will be comfortable for the night and then turn the outside light off. Sometimes it takes awhile as he flits around. Doesn’t seem to be catching bugs. We are now sitting in the near dark and have light on in the hall and he seems to have settled down. He is unafraid of us and such a sweet little bird. We are wondering if he has been rehabilitated by humans as we have bird rescue close by.

  90. Whats a good time of year to release a revived and grown up enough to fly, get a life, and continue with her great attitude! She is smart, does Flips, seems like always to the left? but So Well, Her head doesn’t even move! We opened the cage door once and 5 minutes later, she was sitting on the edge of outdoor cage with a Face full of meal worms! She was able to fly in the house for a while, would go in and out of her smaller indoor cage, would stash food outside her cage, probably same thing she was going to do from the outside cage.
    Thanks for your help! Gary and Annette

    • Sorry, I think some words got lost there – what kind of bird do you have, and what were the circumstances where she needed care? If you raised her from a baby then the main concern is that she be good enough at foraging to find food for herself in the wild. Does she search for food in her cage? Is she good at catching live food?

      It would also help to know generally where you are – birds in some locations have already started migrating, so that might be a concern.

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