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.
Some questions I’ve answered already:
What do I do if I find a baby bird?
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?
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.
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!
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?
Interesting question! I’ll do some research and probably make a post out of the answer, so check back. Thanks for asking!
Why would a male cardinal chirping and going back and forth from my deck to my house for hours today
Sounds like he might have a nest or a young fledgling on your house or under your deck, who he’s feeding. Or possibly he thinks there is a good spot for a nest there and is trying to attract the attention of a female to the area.
Here is the post where I answer this: https://toughlittlebirds.com/2014/02/17/could-ducks-in-the-water-melt-ice/
Thanks so much for the question!
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
What happens if I touch a dark eyed junco baby
If the chick is old enough to be afraid of you, you will scare it; if it’s old enough to run, you may cause it to leave the nest earlier than it should because it’s fleeing you; if it does flee you, you might cause it to end up somewhere less safe, like near a predator or in a road. If the parent juncos see you, they will be scared for their chick, and may make noises to try to drive you off that could attract predators to the chick and put it in danger. By walking to the chick and touching plants or the ground on the way, you will leave your own scent, which predators might follow to find and eat the chick.
One thing that *won’t* happen is that the parent juncos will not reject their own chick just because you touched it. Birds do have a sense of smell, but they recognize their chicks by location (“chick in my nest = mine”) and by the chick’s chirps, not by scent. (Mammals like mice may reject touched babies though, because mammals are generally very scent-oriented.)
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!
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?
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.
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.
Hi Katie, I’ve been following a family of juncos nesting on my back patio. I can’t reliably tell him from her – do you have any tips/tricks to share? I’ve put up some photos and observations on my blog here: http://therationalhomesteader.blogspot.com/
Thanks for your blog, I’ve learned a lot!
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.
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!
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.
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?
I haven’t personally witnessed this, but there’s a photo here (as well as a link to more): http://10000birds.com/junco-mashup.htm
Birds are always doing odd things, aren’t they!
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.
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]berkeley.edu, I’ll take a look.
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.
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: http://www.pigeonrescue.org/resources/helpful-links/ 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!
You really are amazing! What a strange bird – not exactly a beauty but lots of character, I’d say! Thanks for taking the time to track this down.
If you haven’t seen this, it’s time you did. http://juncospub.com
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!
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?
Are birds a kind of dinesor
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.
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
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!!
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.
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!
do birds that live in a cold environment have longer feather than birds that live in warm environment?
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.
Surprise, AZ 85379
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?
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.
You’ve probably seen this, but if not… http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/12/accessories-for-your-murderous-pet/419601/
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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: https://toughlittlebirds.com/2013/07/10/the-fledgling-problem/
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????
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.
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.
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.)
Thank you so much for replying. We see the father feeding. We were very excited to see him finally feed after a few hours.
Oh good! I’m glad :-)
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
I do! If you email me at klabarbera[at]berkeley.edu, I can send you my junco aging guide.
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!
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!
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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!!
That’s great! Good job mockingbirds!
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.
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.
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]berkeley.edu.
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.
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.
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.
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 :)
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?
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
P.S. Or is their feather structure somewhat different?
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.
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.
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!
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 https://toughlittlebirds.com/2016/11/28/birds-and-mirrors-revisited/ ) 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.
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…
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?
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
What is the name of the bird that is fuschia in color with black on its face with a similar face as a cardinal?
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).
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.
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!
Thank you so much! I will try exactly what you said and will let you know how it goes! It’s 5:45 a.m. and that poor little bird is up and at it already…
Haha I’ll look up the David Sedaris essay too!
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.
That’s great! They will sometimes re-use successful nests, which this one was. If it worked once, it may work again! Enjoy watching your junco family.
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
Haha wow, he really is determined! I’m glad to hear it worked. I hope he gets a new hobby soon…
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.)
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.
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.
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: https://toughlittlebirds.com/2017/04/25/found-an-orphanedinjured-wild-animal-heres-why-you-should-take-it-to-a-wildlife-rehabilitator/
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
Thanks so much Emily! Anything in particular you are interested in about the skeletons? Did you see this post: https://toughlittlebirds.com/2013/02/22/avian-flight-i-built-for-flight/
Thanks! I’m not really looking for anything in particular in the skeletons I just thought it might help me learn more.Also thanks for the link to the post it helped alot! Thanks again!
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…
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Once again your doing amazing!
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?
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!
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!
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
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: https://toughlittlebirds.com/2017/02/20/cats-are-in-a-human-made-trap-its-our-duty-to-get-them-out-of-it/)
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.
Not a reply but yet another questions. Black birds on my patio hold heads straight up in the rain. Are they drinking.?..
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.
Thanks for letting us know!
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.
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.
Perhaps on Youtube?
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.
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.
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.
How long do osprey stay on unhatched eggs it has been 48 days and the osprey doesn’t abandon the the best
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.
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?
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!
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.
Saw a license plate in Kensington the other day: O JUNCO. The first thing that came to mind is that it must be your car…
I wish it was!
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.
I found a junco, it didnt fly away from me, just kept hopping. I think he hurt his wing, its only about 25 degrees here. I caught him, and gave him cracked corn bird seeds and water. He is really scared right now, so just letting him calm down. Could he just be cold and couldnt fly away? It just got cold here in the last few days. I dont wanna let him go if he is hurt, but dont wanna keep him cages up if he is ok. I dont know a ton about birds, any advice?
It sounds like something is pretty wrong if he can’t fly. Cold alone won’t keep a bird from flying (and juncos can do quite well in the cold). Is there a wildlife rehabilitator near you, where you could bring him? (If you aren’t sure, just google “wildlife rehab” or “wildlife hospital”.) Keeping him in captivity even for a little while is likely to stress him out and make things worse, so you don’t want to inflict that on him unless it will also come with medical care.
Thanks. Yeah there is wings of wonder is it, but they only take rapture birds. I have a garage i could let it in that nothing could get to it and he wouldnt freeze in the cold snow. I have hay and feed in there for my other critters he could pick at… If that would be less stressful and he would have a better chance .
Hi, just found this page today and am both fascinated and appreciative of all the info on birds which I’ve always loved! Last night, or rather early this morning – an hour or two before sunrise – I heard and almost saw something flying against one of my windows – I thought maybe it was a small bat since it was still quite dark. As it turned out – it was a little Oregon Junco – I know only because he hung around just outside the window, perched on a trash can full of pine cones and looking in the window. I was very surprised as I didn’t think these birds flew about at night, Any insight as to what was happening here? Also – thought he might need something to eat but am leery of rodents also being attracted to the food. All that I’ve read to avoid or deter rodents while feeding birds, say that you can’t feed birds which are ground feeders. Is there anything I can do? Thank you for your time and attention.
Hi Denise, thanks for commenting! Birds fly at night more than you would think. Most migration occurs at night, for example. Since it’s too late in the year for your junco to be migrating, my guess is that something disturbed him – an animal or a noise – and he flew away from it.
You can offer the junco food on a raised platform instead of the ground, or in any type of birdfeeder except for the ones that actively exclude sparrows. One advantage of juncos is that they will often eat the seed that other birds spill on the ground, potentially reducing the risk of rodents. Make sure you replace the seed/clean the feeder periodically though, especially if you have a warm/wet day; you don’t want the birds to eat moldy seeds.
Hello and thank you,
I am on Vancouver Island. I have been lucky enough to have two pairs of California Quail come live in my yard. Alone with over 20 doves now. It’s a very small yard but covered with tress and everything they seem to like. When I startle them by mistake when I go out to feed them, there are wayyyy more than just the four. They leave every night around 4:30..They jump onto a rocking horse and over the fence. I know there are chicks under the topiary tree alongbwith I don’t know how many mid size quail. I just started hearing the chicks today. But the original 4 are still leaving every evening. Have no clue what’s happening.
Thank you for any help you might provide.
You are so lucky. We used to have quail but the cats have taken them. Where on Vancouver Island as I live here too?
We found a junco on our back porch. My kids brought it in and I didn’t see any injuries. It’s a pretty heavy, slushy snowstorm that’s happening outside right now. What I did notice is that the foot was matted into the downy feathers. I wiggled it loose and it sat in a box for a bit. Then I looked again and removed all the downy stuff that was tangled on her feet. That set her flying around the room. Q: should I release her immediately or would it be wise to let her perch in the house until the worst of the storm is over?
Argh, sorry I failed to see this promptly! I hope everything turned out well. For the record, I think either approach could have been fine (although you do want to keep her from flying around inside and banging into things, potentially injuring herself) – juncos are generally great with bad weather, but a short stay in the warm, as long as she wasn’t too anxious, doesn’t seem like a bad idea either. That she was catchable on your porch is not a good sign, but the later flying-around is positive. Thanks for caring about the birds!
Hi, A Robin hit our window and I put it in a box on a heating pad on low heat. I took it to out local bird rehabilitate centre and they told me to not put in on a heating pad. They are very busy so I didn’t ask them why. I always thought that was the right thing to do. Do you have an answer as to what we should do? Thanks so much,
I’m so glad you were able to get the robin to a rehabilitation center! The problem with a heating pad is that it’s easy for the bird to get overheated, especially if the bird is stunned and not able to move around much. Any indoor temperature that is comfortable for humans will be fine for an adult bird. (A heating pad would be potentially useful for a young chick – one without many feathers – but even then you’d want to be very careful to cover the heating pad with a cloth, keep it on low, and make sure the chick could get off the heating pad if it wanted to.)
Hi, Thanks for your reply. I usually leave them outside with the lid open so they can fly away and it was very cold outside. I was once told that if they go into shock they need to be heated so i am a bit confused. I always put a towel or facecloth over the heating pad. I can see how overheating could happen though. I would say about 90% of the birds that we have put on heating pads have recovered. Love our beautiful birds. We have a chickadee that sleeps under the overhang on our deck all summer but disappears in the fall. He/she has done this for 3 summers now. He/she lights up our life when we see him quickly preen himself then turn into a little ball, under our back deck.
Mourning Doves have been nesting in my hanging planters for years. This February, I saw behavior I’ve never witnessed before. Egg laid on Feb 1 and on Feb 19th, the parents had their new hatchling in the birdbath (dry) that I keep near the bird feeder as an easy landing platform for the doves. How they got the baby there is beyond me. The male flew away, but the female proceeded to sit on the chick; then she suddenly flew away. I immediately took the chick and placed him back in the nest. Parents returned a few minutes later and took care of their baby until the baby decided to fledge on March 3. Chick got excited in the a.m. when other doves arrived and flew to ground, but got scared and flew up to the roof. Parents eventually arrived and when they couldn’t find him in the nest they found him on the roof, and fed him. The next day the fledgling visited the bird feeder but parents weren’t there so he left. It is now March 7; 4 days later, and the parents are building a new nest. I’ve never seen such bad dove parenting before. Usually I see the parents with the fledglings all the time. I worry that this baby didn’t survive. (The downside of bird watching). What do you think of the hatchling being abandoned on the birdbath?
That is a truly strange observation! All I can think is that maybe the chick got caught on the parent somehow (???) during brooding and was accidentally dropped in the bird bath, or that some not-very-effective avian predator tried to make off with the chick but instead dropped it. I’m glad you noticed and were able to put the chick back!
Doves really do seem like not the most together parents, don’t they? Perhaps this was the first try by these particular doves. Still, mourning doves are everywhere so it must work sometimes!
Your theory sounds right to me. Didn’t think of the baby getting caught on the parent—probably so anxious to have breakfast, he left in a hurry. Don’t think a predator dropped him since I have the basket pretty well protected (nothing larger than a dove can get through to the nest)
This morning, the fledgling showed up with his parents. I was so relieved. Even though these parents have a new egg in the planter which they sit on off and on, apparently, when it’s convenient for them, they are still taking care of their first born. Obviously, as you suggested, perhaps they’re new to the parenting world.
Thanks so much for your help!!!
What good news! Maybe they’re not quite so bad parents after all :-)
We are moving in a couple of weeks. We have had a birds nest in a piece of furniture on our deck that is moving with us. What should we do?
If the nest is empty (no eggs), I’d recommend moving it ASAP. If the nest has chicks in it, leave it alone; they will almost certainly be fledged (out of the nest) by the time you need to leave, so that won’t be a problem.
If the nest has eggs, you’re in a bit of a pickle. It’s illegal to disturb nesting birds in the US. I can’t think of a great strategy for this off the top of my head, so: if the nest *does* just have eggs, write back saying that, and identifying the bird species if you can, and then I’ll try to think of something!
We have noticed an unusual behaviour in a dark headed junko that feeds often from our birds feeders. We assumed she’s about to lay eggs because for a few days she’s flown close to the ground and she’s been mostly on her tummy. Today she stayed in the grass, very close to us several times, about 2 feet away, for a long time. She appears to be tired and searching for the sun’s warmth. At nightfall we noticed her seeking shelter on the feeder. We managed to catch her and place her into an improvised nest, on our porch. What should we do moving forward? Thank you for your help.
Hi! My younger siblings and I discovered a Junco birds nest in our yard shortly before we mowed it, and we put a little fence around it so that while mowing it would be left alone. The mommy and dad bird were always around, protecting the nest. We put birdseed in a bowl near the nest and watched the birds from a distance (or so, it’s hard trying to keep two kids under 8 away from something new). Anyways, after a week or so we, unfortunately, found that the nest had been ransacked, leaving one egg perfectly intact and sort of folded into the side of the nest, and another two cracked open. One egg had completely disappeared. Much to our dismay, after that day the parent birds never came back. There was no sign of them being harmed and we are all quite curious as to what may have happened. My question is: Is there a chance the mom bird will come back for the egg? We were very excited for chicks, especially now during quarentine.
Oh no! Unfortunately that’s a pretty common occurrence for wild birds: not all nests pan out. Since the eggs were just left, not eaten, it sounds like the nest was trampled accidentally rather than depredated – maybe by a pet dog on a walk, or, more worryingly, by a cat trying to catch the parents. (Other likely candidates – raccoon, opossum, probably even deer – would have eaten the eggs, and I assume a human would have seen the little fence.) Since you didn’t find feathers around or other signs of harm, it’s likely that the parents are fine. They won’t be back for the last egg though: they now think that that nest isn’t safe.
Fortunately, though, juncos are very well equipped to deal with this situation: they often have to make several nesting attempts in one year. Your juncos are probably already building a new nest, and the female will be laying new eggs in it within the week. Keep an eye out for it: juncos’ second nests are often in the same area as the first nest. And even if you don’t find the nest, you might see the fledglings wandering around after they leave the nest, about a month from now.
Hi! Any advice most appreciated. We sucessfully raised all 5 wrens who were abandoned right after they hatched. (neighborhood loose pets…) The chicks have sort of fledged on our front stoop and we’ve made it a safe playground for them (barricaded from predators) but we have no idea how to teach them to hunt. They only eat unless we present a cricket/worm as if they’re still babies. Are these little guys gonna make it?!
I love your strategy so far! A fenced-off area that is safe (and that they won’t fly out of prematurely) is a great plan. You don’t exactly need to *teach* them; hunting is instinctual to some degree; BUT they need time to do a lot of trial-and-error learning.
The wrens will take longer than you think to learn how to hunt – around 2 weeks, maybe more. When you hand-feed them, try to make a show of picking up the food from the ground, and sometimes dropping it and picking it up several times, to show where the food is coming from. Eventually they should start pecking at things themselves. You’ll want to gradually offer them live bugs more and more; they’ll need to work up to live crickets (hard to catch!), but waxworms are easy and safe. Mealworms aren’t great as live food until the wrens are getting good at killing their food, because mealworms have pretty strong jaws and if they get eaten alive they may bite the wrens. Once you see the wrens starting to whack mealworms on the ground a lot before eating them, then they’re safe: the wrens are killing them first.
You should expect the wrens to start pecking at things and trying to eat them, but to still be pretty bad at telling what is food and what isn’t, and then slowly to learn what is food and get better at catching it. In the wild, the parents would keep feeding and teaching the chicks for 2-4 weeks after they leave the nest – and the longer the parents stuck around, the more likely the chicks are to survive. So, the longest time you can keep them contained and safe while learning how to eat, the better chance they have.
THANK YOU! You are spot on with the hunting prediction! Yes, it started to come instinctually after a few days, and your advice to drop the food in front of them to show/encourage them to take the food themselves was FANTASTIC! Our little runt, nicknamed “17”, has been slow to develop and surely would not have made it, even if their mamma bird had remained with them. 17 wasn’t able to walk for the longest time, using his wings to hop around with which was sad, but he eventually snapped out of it and started walking, thank heavens. He is the last to hunt on his own, though, and will beg his siblings for food which is pretty silly. I’ve cut back on the hand feedings now in hopes little 17 grows up.
We took a rabbit cage (long for hopping around real estate) and lined the interior of the cage with mesh fabric and then loaded the inside with a potted bush for perching and crickets galore. Freaking PetsMart crickets are expensive!! The mesh keeps the crickets inside which we think has been a great advantage to these guys for a target-rich environment in the absence of mamma bird.
So, in short, once the little wrens started looking DOWN for their food, hunting, instead of looking UP for mamma, this was a huge sign of success for them.
Ok, so now we have a safety issue… I feel like this situation is all backwards – instead of having a fearful instinct first and then learning to eat as in the wild, these little wrens are completely fearless. We opened the cage and let them hop around the yard after a cricket feast, and lo and behold they decided to take an adorable nap in a small bunch of pansies, right out in the open and in plain sight to everything. I scooped them back up and put them in the cage, and they fell back asleep. Cute, and infuriating. We were hoping they’d just fly off into the sunset, happy little hunters.
Have I ruined these little guys’ chances of survival because they were rescued?!
Thank you! You are a God-send!
PS We have two adopted nephews in our family and they love the videos of these little wrens. There are so many parallels in these and other little critters we rescue here at our home on Lake Lanier. We love to share these stories with them, that just because you weren’t born into a family, doesn’t mean you’re not family. Last year we rescued and successfully re-integrated a Canadian gosling back into a new flock. The whole experience was incredible.
Anywho, I really appreciate your advice. I’m exhausted with researching how to do this all right for the sake of these little creatures. And now am seriously considering getting licensed to do this because we live on the lake and next to a farm and they just keep finding their way into our yard!!
Your generosity in advice was extremely appreciated. Best wishes to you!!! THANK YOU!
I’m glad to hear that they’re figuring out food! The issue now is that in the wild, the wren parents would teach them to be wary and show them what danger looks like; it’s going to be harder for you to do that.
The first thing I’d recommend is to find some dense brush – think lots of small branches, like part of a bush – and put it in their enclosure. Wrens’ main defense is just to stay hidden, and it sounds like your chicks are a bit too comfortable out in the open (sleeping in the pansies… so cute!), so let’s get them used to skulking around in the vegetation the way they’ll need to do in the wild. That’s also where they’ll find most of their food, so it will be double useful.
The second, harder thing is that you need to wean them off the concept of “humans=friends.” This will probably be rough for you since they’re your babies, but to survive in the wild they need to be wary of large mammals like humans. In the wildlife hospital where I used to volunteer, we would occasionally get a young bird who was a bit too human-friendly; we would try to spend as little time near them as possible, and if they got too close when we were delivering food, we would make sudden movements to seem scary. Birds naturally get warier as they get older, so if you can stay out of sight of the birds as much as possible, they’ll start to lose their familiarity with humans. (You can still watch them, but maybe from behind a window, or from 20 feet away.)
A third thing that you could do if you’re feeling ambitious is to try teaching them about specific dangers. Normally, the wren parents would see a danger – say, a cat – and then hop around making angry alarm sounds and hustling the babies to safety. You can simulate that with some alarm sounds (google “house wren alarm call” – here’s one option that would work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=f1dbsSU5vQg – or “chickadee alarm call,” since many species of birds pay heed to chickadee warnings) and a “danger.” If you have a dog or cat that you could walk past on a leash, that would work great; otherwise, some kind of natural-colored cat-sized stuffed animal could work too. Have the “danger” approach, then play the alarm sounds. Give the chicks time to get a good look at the danger, and play the alarm CONSTANTLY, including for a minute after the danger leaves. (Wild birds keep alarming for a while just in case the danger comes back.) If you do this several times over the course of multiple days, I think the chicks will learn to be a bit more aware of their environment.
Good luck! Let me know how it goes :-)
Hello!!! Again, continued thanks for your advice and time!! You will be delighted to know all five wrens have beautifully transitioned into the world! After they fledged, we continued to feed them crickets and wax worms and kept them in that long rabbit cage but knowing they needed flight practice, we bought a large outdoor aviary, moved them into there, which they loved, and then after another few days in there, opened the doors to the aviary and let them come and go at will, always keeping food for them in the aviary should they not be successful around the yard and lake. Wouldn’t you know they came back each evening to sleep in the aviary THREE nights in a row! Stinking cute. They did have a few rough encounters with another nesting sparrow nearby who would swoop down on them, but no harm was done and the baby wrens probably learned a little about life thanks to that other bird. So, now that they can fly around the yard, brilliantly like little jet fighters, and they actually come visit us on our three story deck! And you bet they have us trained now, peeping at our glass deck door asking for worms. What I totally love is that all five of them have maintained their little gang and are doing great with the other birds, defensively chattering at our dog, squirrels, and they really gave a chipmunk a run for his money. Two of them are fighting amongst themselves so I suppose the gang will separate soon, but it’s been amazing to watch them grow, flying higher and higher into the trees. My husband and I will spot one in the trees and say, “is that one ours?” :) The only way we can tell them apart now from other wrens is the shorter length of their tails. They’ve learned those cute little warbling sounds, too. I like to imagine them saying, where’s that lady with the worms… :) And I hope this isn’t *too* wrong, but when I call out to them, “birdies!”, like when I was hand feeding them, they all come flying up to the deck for a worm treat. It’s a freaky thing to see a wren flying towards you at lightning speed! Very Hitchcock… Some of them will take worms from my hands occasionally but the alphas in the group are more fearful now, which is a good thing, but at least they come home to visit :) And now we just leave a small tray with live worms out for them that I refill occasionally, but less and less now, and have ceased the hand feeding altogether. What I especially love is that they all roam around and inspect my garden veggies I have in containers on my deck. It’s like free guard-dog birds that maintain the bugs in my veggies. :) Which is nice payback for all those poop sacks I cleaned up while they were in the nest LOL… Anywho, it’s been an amazing journey with these birdies and I just can’t thank you enough for your support. I had no idea what I was doing and your guidance was a huge relief and critical to these little wrens’ success. God bless! -Gloria
Gloria, that’s so wonderful to hear! This has been such a lovely saga. I love that they’re now pest control for your vegetables. I hope you’re giving yourself lots of credit – it is NOT EASY to raise wild baby birds!
High five to YOU! Really appreciate your guidance and all you do for the birdies and those of us inadvertent foster bird parents! Best to you!
I have a robin nest atop my mailbox on my home. 3 robin eggs. 2 of the eggs seem to be trying to crack through but it’s been a couple of days. I’d This normal? The first egg which is semi opened doesn’t look like the baby is incubated & doesn’t seem to have formed but I can’t for sure tell, the other I can see his feathers but no movement. The 3rd looks undisturbed. I don’t know what this means.
This sounds like something is wrong. Hatching in robins might take up to a few hours, but shouldn’t take longer than that. If they’ve been cracked for a few days, I’m afraid they’re gone.
I’ve noticed for two days now, Junko parents feeding their chicks from my feeder. The Chicks can fly – does the family go back to the nest at night or roost together for a certain amount of time? I had assumed once they fly, they’re on their own.
They won’t go back to the nest at night, and they probably roost separately, but for the first 2-3 weeks out of the nest the chicks will stay near the parents. When they first leave the nest, they have no idea how to find food (or even what is food and what isn’t) and no idea what things are dangerous predators, so the parents feed them and give alarm calls at predators to teach the chicks. Over time, the parents will feed them less and the chicks will venture farther afield. Eventually the chicks will leave the parents and join a “juvenile flock” of other young birds and spend the late summer with them.
juncos Made a nest and lates eggs in my hanging baskets right before we reroofed, they have been gone 3 days now, have they abandoned it?
If the number of eggs in the nest hasn’t changed (meaning they aren’t still laying more eggs) and you haven’t seen the juncos at all in 3 days, then they probably did abandon it. If the roofing involved a lot of action near their nest, they probably thought the area wasn’t safe and went to re-nest somewhere else.
I found a Jungo nest under my fire pit bin. I was using my weed eater and started to get those weeds when i saw momma fly up from under it and started chirping at me from the fence.. i stopped and kneeled to look under and sure enough a nest with 3 eggs.. i left the nest alone and saw momma or pappa leave the nest this morning and straight to the bird feeder… i felt so much better knowing they came back! However, im concerned because i have 2 dogs and cant keep them inside for 2 weeks, the nest is in my backyard. I plan to let the weeds grow around the bin in hopes that will hide the babes from my dogs and other predators.. is it that common for the nests to be on the ground? fingers crossed we get to watch these babes fly off.
Junco nests are almost always on the ground, yes. Anything you can do to reduce the chances your dogs find them will be important if you want them to survive; at the wildlife hospital, we get in hundreds of birds injured by dogs and chicks orphaned by dogs. Perhaps you could put some sort of barrier around the nest to discourage the dogs? A fence would be best, but cut branches would work, or old yard tools even. Any kind of cover will help the parents stay hidden and help the chicks when they first leave the nest: that’s when they’ll be most vulnerable, when they’re old enough to run around and look tempting to a dog but too young to escape by flying.
Four eggs hatched, suddenly no parent. It’s raining and cold.
Hello .. I had two baby junco birds in the grass next to my house that were fairly small unfortunately I weedwacker their nest pretty good before I knew they were there but they were unharmed thank god … I put a curved piece of wood over them and added sum dead grass to keep them warm and about two days later they were gone from the area, can the parents move them? The babies were small but the parents are not to much larger I’m just hoping that the rats or a snake didn’t get to them could it be possible for the parents to carry them away?
If the chicks had some feathers and looked at all like birds (rather than naked weird aliens, which is what very young chicks look like), then they absolutely could have been led away to somewhere else by their parents. Junco chicks develop their legs well before their wings, so that they can walk/run from danger. The parents wouldn’t need to carry them, they would just guide them across the ground. I’ve seen parents do this even with pretty young chicks when the nest is destroyed (I think they assume that if the nest was destroyed, that place isn’t safe).
How often do dark eyed juncos lay eggs? I have 1 egg in a nest.
They should lay one egg per day, early in the morning. The female won’t start sitting on the nest until there are around three to five eggs, so if it seems like she’s ignoring the eggs for a while, that’s normal.
Last year, at our home in Cortland, NY I had a pair build a nest and lay two eggs in a Black-eyed Susan hanging plant on our front porch. We stopped using the porch to make sure there were no disruptions. One of the eggs fledged but sadly the other did not. The pair did not return. We put the same plant in the same place as early as weather would allow, but so far, no activity.
I’ve had a nest of junco birds in my back yard and something startled the babies out of the nest and they scurried away. I’m not exactly sure how old the babies were but there were four of them and they looked to be full of feathers and flying a little bit. The mom and dad were both there at the time when they fluttered away. It was there first time out of the nest . I haven’t really noticed the babies around since they 3scaped their nest but that night and the night after, I seen the mother fly out of the nest. I creeped up to get a picture to see if she had more eggs but there was nothing in the nest. Why was the mom bird back in the nest? Did she lose the baby’s I wonder ?? Is she laying more eggs?
Hmm, I’m not sure why the female would be in the nest. It’s normal for the chicks to end up leaving the nest because they get startled by something, and if they were running and even a bit flying then they were old enough to leave and should be fine. They’re probably not too far away but hiding.
Some complete guesses about the female’s behavior, since I don’t have a good answer: 1) Maybe one of the chicks is hiding near the nest, and she’s going there to feed him. 2) Maybe the area around the nest is a good place to forage for food. 3) Maybe she’s doing a bit of nest maintenance before starting to lay a second brood. (Sometimes they will start laying eggs pretty soon after the chicks fledge.)
An Oregon Junco has built a nest on top of the wreath hanging on my front door. I believe I must have scared the mama off the nest* several times before I noticed why she was there, but she seems to have settled in pretty well. There are only two eggs…and have been that number for several days…so probably one of those times interfered with her laying (I am guessing, since 3 eggs is the lowest number for a clutch that any sources note). In any case, my question is, how often does a female junco leave her eggs in order to feed herself?
*I have no other entrance/exit I can use.
Two eggs is quite a small clutch size, but birds do tend to lay smaller clutches later in the season. If it’s been just two eggs for a few days, that’s all it’s going to be. You don’t need to worry about having disrupted her laying and somehow caused her to lose a third egg though – they don’t lay so quickly that they could be scared off and then drop the egg. For whatever reason, she’s just going with two eggs for this nest.
Once she starts incubating, she’ll be on the eggs most of the time. I don’t have exact data for juncos, just a sense that when we monitored nests, it was rare to approach a nest and not find the female on it. Conway & Martin 2000 collected data on a broadly similar bird (in terms of being a smallish songbird), the orange-crowned warbler, and found that females generally left the nest for 8 mins, then incubated for 34 mins, etc. This gives a ratio of about 1:4 of foraging:incubating time. Females incubated slightly less in warmer temperatures, because the eggs stayed warm on their own for longer.
I hope you get junco chicks!
I’m really hoping so too! So you can imagine my distress when the raccoon showed up last night. As far as I can tell, he/she was only interested in the feeder I had hung nearby for mama junco’s convenience (and thinking of babies). So I’ll be taking it down every night at the same time I remove my hummingbird feeders, hoping to avoid further attention from this agile predator. I may decide to stand guard (indoors at the window) ready to scare off the raccoon.
Ooh yes, a raccoon is cause for concern. Your plan to remove the feeder is a good one. I’ll also mention that if this is a seed feeder, it probably isn’t necessary right now; this is high bug season so most birds, including juncos, will be mostly eating bugs. Once the eggs hatch, if you want to be entertained, I recommend putting out some live mealworms or waxworms where the juncos can find them – they will be very happy to feed those to the chicks. Photos from when I did that are here: https://toughlittlebirds.com/2018/08/13/junco-neighbors/
Freeze-dried mealworms won’t work?
The problem with them is they’ll be too hard for the chicks. Maybe if you soaked them to soften them?
On Sun, Jun 21, 2020 at 7:11 PM Tough Little Birds wrote:
I see we’ve run out of “nests” on this site, that is, it will only go so far as a reply to a reply to a reply. So I’m posting this response as a reply to myself (where it will hopefully appear below your last reply). I guess it’s time to look for a source of live mealworms, then. Mostly the ones I’ve seen seem way to big for tiny chicks, whereas the freeze-dried ones I thought mama would process like the seeds.
They’ve hatched, although there doesn’t seem to be activity yet. Mama is still sitting on them, but when I had to disturb her in order to get out the door, I got a good look. They’re not sitting up and demanding to be fed yet! But they did survive a visit from the raccoon at some undetermined time last night.
Haha, in their first few days there won’t be much activity – they can hardly hold their own heads up right now! Mom will sit on them a lot until they start growing feathers to keep themselves warm, around day 5.
I’m hoping there isn’t an easy path for the raccoon to climb up to the top of the wreath!
On Tue, Jun 23, 2020 at 11:12 AM Tough Little Birds wrote:
*sob* The porch railing below but next to it practically provides a ladder.
Well, two weeks later now that the little ones are covered in dark, downy feathers, a male junco has appeared. He and the female will try to annoy the ground squirrels enough to chivvy them off the balcony. So far they have not been successful, but also the squirrels do not seem to have shown any interest in finding a way up the door to the nest. Fortunately, I am mostly at my desk in the window and will hear the pair start up their sharp little “chip-chip-chip” sound, so I can stand up and the squirrels are scared off by the movement. When I have to go out (appx. every other day) I take the opportunity to make a photo record of the nest. I was happy to discover that if I wait until after dark, and move low and slow, I do not scare mama off the nest. My question is: where has the male been all this time? Will he help feed the little ones?
Usually male juncos help feed the chicks, but some of them do seem to think that this contribution is optional. I’ve seen nests where no male ever shows up, and nests where the male hangs around watching for danger but doesn’t do any feeding. Your male may fit into the latter category. He may step up to help once the chicks get more demanding (the bigger they get, the more food they need) – or he may not.
I’m glad you can keep an eye on those squirrels: squirrels are a major predator of junco nests.
On Fri, Jul 3, 2020 at 12:17 PM Tough Little Birds wrote:
Well, after neighborhood fireworks last night, there is no sign of parents or babies today. The nest still looks intact, as does the wreath it is constructed on, so I’m thinking the problem may have been the lights and noise, rather than predation. Yet . . . I had not seen any sign that the chicks were ready to fledge either, so I just don’t know. There’s no indication that any of them have returned to the seed feeder I put up (which is also where I was putting the live worms) nor have I seen juveniles come to the seed I sprinkle on my back porch (where juncos come to look for millet and/or bugs).
I am soooo sad.
Oh no! Firework noises could definitely trigger fledging if the chicks were old enough. I don’t have a good sense of how old the chicks were – did they look like any of the chicks in this post: https://toughlittlebirds.com/2014/03/26/i-can-fly/ ? Those chicks were all capable of leaving the nest and surviving. I wouldn’t expect the chicks to appear at your feeders yet if they had fledged – they’d still be hiding and being fed by the parents (or maybe just Mom in this case!) – but I’m surprised you haven’t seen the parents.
On Sun, Jul 5, 2020 at 3:37 PM Tough Little Birds wrote:
No, they were still smaller than that. Their bills were still black, not yellow, and their backs were very dark and streaky. There’s been at least a couple juveniles showing up where I sprinkle seed on my back porch, so I am holding out hope that these might be them. However, if mama feeds them still for some days after fledging, then it couldn’t be the same birds.
Oh, forgot to say, in the same seed location I think I may have seen the parents also, just not back on the front porch where the nest was.
I’ll try to make this as short as possible! (But no promises!) I purchase two hanging flower baskets for my front porch every Spring. About a week after this years baskets were hung (May 5th-ish). Everytime I visited the porch. I was caught of guard, by an areal assult of verbal abuse from this pushy, bossy, loud mouth, tiny bird! I was not about to be run off MY porch by a mini flying car alarm. Until I conferred with… The Google. Ok, all joking aside. Once I got a good look at my assailant, I realized what was going on, I did quite a bit of research on my new little buddy. A.K.A the make Dark Eyed Junco. He was scoping out some new digs for his lady. Which coincidentally was one of my NEW hanging baskets. (Apparently rent was out of his budget!) Anywho, Mama and I have be come good friends. I lighly flutter my nails on the basket at 6am every morning, and she jumps to the tree branches a couple feet away. Then proceeded to scream at me with that “clicky” Junco scream while I ever so gently try to salvage my flowers with a drink of water. She laid four eggs total. I’ve seen two of the babies, but only by mistake when I went to water. I havent tried to look at the babies again. I look just enough to make sure not to get the nest/babies wet. My question/concern is. These are ground nesting birds, yes. So when her brood is ready to “leave the nest” (no pun intended) they would naturally have the safety of the long grass, and vast expanse of the ground. No concern for injuries. But, being that they’re current abode is roughly 7.5 feet from the ground, how will they know not to fall over the edge? I worry about this everyday! Ive tried contacting my local Audubon. But, due to Covid-19, it is literally impossible to get someone on the phone. They have intentionally turned off their voice message option. And obviously you can’t just show up there, and just walk in the door! I just want to know they will survive their journey from their Moms nest. And if that means I could do something to make sure that happens, then that’s what I would like to do. I live in Oregon. It is illegal to disturb a birds nest here. So I’ve left it alone besides once a day/maybe every other day light watering, and I’ve kept my two monstrosity Danes off the porch as well (she does NOT like them around. Me, on the other hand, she tolerates.) Bottom line, should I worry about the babies safety 7.5 ft off the ground? I’ve also read they use their nest only once. But alot if times will build their new one right, smack next to the old one! Should I be concerned about that? As much I have enjoyed these past few weeks. I dont want tenants anymore! And finally, do the babies make any noise? I haven’t heard a peep from them (haha, get it?!). I have many other questions. But I dont want to bother you any longer than necessary with my obnoxious witticisms. I look forward to your reply. Since I came across your site. I’ve read so many comments, I went cross eyed gathering info! I’ve very grateful for the education. Thank again!
Juncos are ground nesters, but for some reason they *love* hanging flower baskets. (Possibly because they’re like a little bit of “ground” but much safer from predators.) This does mean that they’ll adjust their fledgling schedule: on the ground, the chicks would generally run out of the nest around day 11-14, before they can fly. In a hanging basket (or on a ledge, or in a repurposed robin nest, or any of the less-accessible places juncos can nest), they will try to stay in the nest for a few more days until their wings have developed enough to let them flap-fall to the ground. For this reason, the fall shouldn’t be a problem. (Although if you want to be really safe, you could put something soft, like a folded towel, under the hanging basket just in case the chicks get startled out of the nest early.)
Chicks usually fledge early in the morning. Sometimes they do it on their own, and sometimes they’re *almost* ready for a while and then something prompts them – it’s quite possible that one morning you will tap the basket and instead of Mom flying out, it will be Mom followed by four chicks shooting off in every direction! When that happens, don’t try to catch them, just back off and let the parents shepherd the chicks wherever they want to take them. (The parents will definitely be clicking and dive-bombing you, in case you need encouragement to back off.)
The biggest danger will probably be your dogs – if you can keep them away from the area for the first few days after the chicks leave the nest, that will do a great deal to improve their survival chances. Dogs really like to go after young fledglings, and if they’re too young to fly, it often ends badly. (This goes even more so if you have a cat – cats are death for young birds.)
Juncos will indeed nest near old nests. If you don’t want this, I’d recommend removing the nest once the chicks leave, then keeping an eye on your baskets and if any new nest starts to form, remove that too. It’s legal to remove nests as long as there aren’t eggs/chicks in them. (You’ll have to monitor pretty closely – they can build a new nest in ~3 days.) If the chicks fare well, this shouldn’t be an issue: the parents will care for them for another ~14 days, and we’re already somewhat late in the season for Oregon, so I’d be surprised if she tried another nest after that.
Do the chicks make noise: not much. Chicks around 3-6 days old can make a really weird alien buzzing sort of noise if they think a parent is close. As they get older, they get very quiet. (This is probably because they rely on remaining hidden from predators. Birds in more secure nests, like baby woodpeckers in tree cavities, are often quite fearlessly loud.) Once they leave the nest they will start making noise though – following the parents around, chirping to be fed.
I hope all goes will with your junco family! If you think of it and have the time, I’m always delighted to hear updates :-)
Hi, We have had so many Robins gong crazy in our yard this spring. Fighting and carrying on. They love the bird bath. I was wondering, will an adult Robin actually be aggressive toward her own young when the young get big enough to be on their own? This very large baby kept badgering the adult and the adult got quite mad and a bit of a tussle happened. Also, how do you tell the difference between a male and female Robin? Does the male have the darker head? Two adult Robins, neither with a darker head were feeding one baby. Thanks.
That sounds like great entertainment! Parents will be aggressive towards their chicks once the chicks are old enough to fend for themselves, if the chicks keep begging; this doesn’t always happen, but in some cases it appears that the chicks won’t stop bothering the parents unless the parents get a little rough. It’s more likely to happen if the parents are working on a new nest and have other, younger chicks to feed.
Robins are sometimes sexually distinguishable by plumage, but not always. When they are, males have darker heads and overall more vivid colors, while females are a bit duller. A lot of individuals aren’t sexable by sight though; probably your parent robins who look similar fall into this category.
Hi, Thank you for your reply. They really are entertaining. They gorging on our cherries. Most are so high we can’t reach them so why not share. They nest here cause they know the cherries are here I think. We also have a pair of elusive Western Tanagers in our yard. So beautiful. I play their song on the iPad and they come close wondering where this intruder is.
Hi there! I have a dark-eyed junco building a nest on my patio in the top corner of the balcony. I’ve enjoyed watching her process, but have noticed something that I’m curious about: in the past three days, she has been working hard to gather her materials and fly them up to her nest location to build. But she’s knocked down what she’s built several times then appears to start over/rework her materials. Today marks at least the fourth time this has happened in the past three days… She doesn’t seem to be giving up; is this a typical behavior in the nest-building process? If so, what is the reason for this behavior?
We just had 2 baby juncos leave the nest in my hanging basket. What’s weird though, is one of the babies seems to have stayed and is now “updating” the nest, I know it’s the baby because the tail wings are very short. The past few days, Momma junco has been hanging around with this baby. Can the baby have a clutch already?
Juncos never reproduce in the same season they hatch. This year’s babies should be having their own clutches next spring. Your chick is just a homebody who likes hanging out in the nest! He’s probably messing with the nest as part of figuring out how to forage and what is and isn’t food – young fledglings spend a lot of time pecking and pulling at things to see if they happen to be edible.
I am feeling like the world’s biggest jerk. I am very upset with myself. A mama bird, I think she’s a Carolina Wren, had a nest on the window ledge right outside my window and I have watched first the eggs, then the nestlings, and today I went out to take a picture with my cellphone to post on FB. I was amazed at how big they had gotten. Anyway, I got just a little too close, and all of the fledglings flew away. Mama came back with a bug in her beak to feed one of them, and she looked so confused. I was surprised they could fly and I never intended to force an evacuation. I am really sad about it. It’s a hard lesson. Any guess about what happened next?
I think what happened next is that they found bushes to hide in and mama started feeding them. You don’t need to feel nearly so bad – check out my blog post on this very situation (it’s quite common!): https://toughlittlebirds.com/2018/05/22/you-scared-baby-birds-out-of-their-nest-oh-no-will-they-be-okay/
I have a family of birds it just seem to of flown into purple mass. The mail is like a darker brown with a little bit of light to tail feathers and a big like a grosbeak female is lighter brown they’ve literally attacked my sunflower seed feeder two of them two feeders they been here since 730 this morning it’s now 730 at night and they just stopped coming they tend to shake the feeling you’re going to pull out the simplest he’s dropped on the ground that’s with the babies eating no other birds have come to my feeder since they’ve been here I would love to know I’ve gone in the Audubon book I looked in November it’s I’ve looked in southern birds
That sounds like something to see! Unfortunately it’s very hard to ID birds from verbal descriptions. You can try googling “backyard birds [your location]” and browsing photos to see if you recognize anyone, or if you have extra space on your phone, I recommend the Merlin bird ID app: it’s from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, it’s free, and you enter a few basic descriptions (size, colors) to see a list of bird species that are often in your area.
My son brought home a nestling that lost it’s home when a tree fell over in a storm. We hand fed it for weeks and then made it transition to catching it’s own crickets and bee moth larvae, with a millet blend of seeds available. Bird is now pretty much full size and can fly well, won’t eat crickets anymore, so needs to transition to outdoors to be a real bird. My husband thinks we should not release it outdoors during the worst of the July heat since it is used to air conditioning. Is this really a problem? Who knows when it will cool off! This bird needs to be a bird, not an indoor jailbird. What do you think?
Congratulations on successfully raising a bird, that’s not easy! The heat shouldn’t be a problem unless this is an unusual heat wave (like the heat wave that was killing lots of Australian wildlife not too long ago). If you want to be sure it isn’t a problem, put out a makeshift bird bath – just a wide, shallow dish with an inch of water in it – and keep it filled until the heat passes; your other local birds will probably enjoy that too.
You do want to try to ease the transition from “food-available-all-the-time” to “find-your-own-food”: the biggest cause of death in older fledglings is starvation. I’d recommend first, giving the bird a few days where his food is scattered on a dish of dirt or among dead leaves: something where he has to find it, as practice for the real world. Then, when you release him, put out a dish of his food for the first week, so he won’t starve while he figures out how foraging works in the wild.
An Oregon Junco has made a nest inside my garage, in a fishing net hanging behind a lawn chair. I saw 2 eggs in the nest a week ago when I followed it into the garage. It had been frantically trying to get into the garage when the door was closed. Since then, the bird has been in the nest for longer and longer periods of time. My problem is that I cannot leave the garage door open at night and have been closing it after dark. I assumed that birds go inside at dark. On a few days, I saw it fly out when the door was opened in the morning. The last 2 days, it must have not come in at dark because I saw it fly into the garage in the morning. This surprised me because I check the outside after closing the door, in the dark, to see if it is waiting to go in. (last week, it would be frantically flying around to go inside). My question is, can the eggs still be viable if they are not incubated all night? How long is the mother going to incubate them if they are not going to hatch? I know she is in the nest all day as when I walk close by, she jumps out of the nest and sits on the rafters until I move away.
We cannot sit at home every day for a month waiting to see what happens, so what should I do?
If I move the entire contraption over a few feet and hang everything right outside the garage door, will she still find it?
I’m at a lost as to what to do at this point.
Oh man, urban juncos do like to get into pickles… The eggs should still be viable, especially since nights are probably pretty warm. Incubation usually lasts 13 days but it might take longer if she’s not incubating at night. If they aren’t viable, she might keep trying for a few days or maybe up to a week but she would figure it out eventually. I think you should just keep doing what you’ve been doing; don’t move the nest yet, she might not find it. If the eggs hatch, then you could move the nest a few feet, and the chirping of the chicks would help her to find it. (Although honestly I’m not sure whether moving it or not is better; the chicks wouldn’t normally get fed at night anyway, so she doesn’t need access to the nest at night, and there’s something to be said for the protection from predators they would get by being in the garage. And presumably the mother selected her location for a reason. I’m tempted to recommend just leaving the nest where it is, unless you’ll need to go out of town, and assuming there are no pets in the garage.)
This reminds me of a report I saw of swallows nesting in a parking garage that had a motion-activated garage door: they learned to swoop in front of the motion sensor when they needed to get in or out!
Hi! I am hoping for advice about releasing a Junco I’ve been raising for the last 3 weeks. I rescued it when it was 3 days old. The nest was in a planter on my front porch, tipped over in the morning and the other 3 chicks were gone – I waited all day and parents never returned so at 11pm I took her inside. I was planning to release her tomorrow, but now i am nervous about whether there should be more transition with food. She is very active and healthy, is flying well now (all over the house, I only contain her at night), has good instincts, pecks and forages and tries to eat whatever is on the floor or window ledges (I scatter seed in a few places and she also pecks at dead moths, dried grass that’s been tracked in, dust, whatever). I’ve been feeding her kitten food soaked in water, live mealworms and waxworms, and the seed, although she seems to practice eating it more than swallowing it. We have lots of Juncos around our yard and live on 2 acres that is partly wetlands with lots of trees and bushes. I have put seed in 3 places – two trays on ground and one feeder. Do you think she will be okay at this age to forage? I don’t really know what else to do, how to transition her. Thanks for any advice, and for your website, which has been very helpful!
Hi Andrea, well done for raising her from such a young age! Chicks that young are not easy! This is about the age that the parents would be feeding her less, although probably still feeding her some. Does she still beg or is she entirely self-feeding? If she’s completely self-feeding then you could release her, although I’m a bit concerned about what you said that she’s not yet great about eating the seed, since that’s the food that will available after her release. Maybe give her another few days to figure the seed out… It’s definitely good that you put seed out and that there are lots of juncos around: she can join a flock and learn from them.
Thank you so much for your quick reply and for the advice, I will follow it. I had been wondering if keeping her too long would be an issue with her becoming too used to house life, but I know I’ll feel better if she’s just a little bit older and more capable of foraging when she leaves. She has been feeding herself for about a week, when I approached her with the tweezers she would keep her beak closed and shake me off, it was hilarious. So, I just put it down in front of her and she’s been feeding herself ever since. She does not beg, although she chirps loudly and persistently when she’s hungry. I don’t leave the kitten food laying out because It starts to dry out and she doesn’t like it that way. I ran out of worms yesterday and I’m wondering if I should get more – maybe she will be more likely to eat the seed if she knows the worms are not coming? Or should I keep giving them along with kitten food but stretch out the feedings? Since she’s been bigger I’ve been feeding her every 60 or so minutes from 7am-8pm. Any concerns about her not being accepted into a flock?
If it’s not a great hassle to get more bugs I’d say go for it – nothing wrong with giving her a last boost of fat and protein before she takes off into the wild! I would recommend feeding her less often though, say every two hours. That will give her some time to get hungry and get more motivated to figure out the seed.
I don’t see any reason why she wouldn’t be accepted into the flock. All of this year’s juveniles will be new and clueless, so she’ll fit right in :-) She’ll start out at the bottom of the hierarchy, of course, but so will all the juveniles.
On Sun, Jul 26, 2020 at 1:17 PM Tough Little Birds wrote:
Hi Katie, love your blog! I live in the PNW and notice what seems to be an influx of much larger dark-eyed juncos in the winter. I am curious if these larger birds are migratory (subspecies?) from further north and the smaller birds are residents of the area, or whether this is usual size variability among the species. I figured you are the right person to ask! All the best.
Hi, sorry I missed this comment until now – very interesting! I don’t know off the top of my head but I bet I can figure it out. Stay tuned!
Hi Katie- no question here- I just discovered your blog while doing a search for more info on dark-eyed juncos. We have a nest in our hanging planter (San Diego area) and the three little ones are just about to fledge. (13 days old). We have thoroughly enjoyed following the family’s behaviors – we installed a small security camera directly above the planter- and are a bit nervous – as in watching the camera feed continuously- about the 3 little ones chances of survival once out of the nest. I guess time will tell. We are taking your suggestion to put something soft under the hanging planter to cushion any potential falls from the nest onto the pavers.
Hello, do bird nests have a lot of poop near it? I noticed a nest in my backyard and in front of the nest is a whole bunch of poop which falls to the ground too, like it’s stacked up. Is that normal? I’ve never seen anything like that. Thanks!
Yes! When the chicks are very little, their poop comes out in conveniently not-messy little packages called “fecal sacs” which the parents pick up in their bills and carry away to drop elsewhere, so the chicks don’t mess up the nest. Once the chicks are big enough, though, they start doing a little maneuver where they turn around and back up until their butt is over the edge of the nest, then poop. At that point poop definitely starts to accumulate near/under the nest. It sounds like your chicks are big and healthy to be generating such a visible pile!
Thank you Katie, for some reason I didn’t get a notification for your response or I probably missed it. This is very helpful, now I know, thanks again!!
Hello, great site. I LOVE IT!. Like everyone else I have a question :). I discovered not long ago a Junco nest under my porch with 4 eggs in it. One day the first one hatched and I was so proud to be a parent this season and could not wait to greet the other 3. But just like most folks, I found the nest raided this morning and the one baby was on the ground dead. My heart sunk!! I then noticed that the other eggs were gone, but just 1 foot away from the Junco next there was now a new nest, much bigger and looking quite different. More like a ball of grass. I noticed sparrows going back and forth to it. So, I wandered if the sparrows attacked and destroyed the Junco next, and why would a sparrow next 1 foot away from a Junco. I have 5 bird houses around the house. Only 2 area occupied with sparrows. The other ones are empty. So, do you think my brand new baby bird was killed by the sparrows, or was it a cowbird like everyone is mentioning on this site? And why such close nesting on the part of the sparrow? The’ve got some real Hilton’s available around the house. What might have made them move next door to my Junco family? Thank you!
Wow! I had to do some research on this and I still don’t have a great answer for you I’m afraid. The “ball of grass” nest is consistent with a House Sparrow nest that is not in a bird house (generally they prefer bird houses and other cavities, but they can nest outside them). House Sparrows are famously aggressive towards other nesting birds (usually because they want to steal their bird house or cavity, but of course that doesn’t apply in this case). Cowbirds will remove eggs, but they remove an egg and then lay their own egg, so the total number of eggs should stay the same. Cowbirds do not usually remove chicks. I think the sparrows are the likeliest culprits here. (Although there could be some third possibility we don’t know about, like a mouse or a chipmunk finding the junco nest. A *lot* of animals will eat eggs and baby birds if they get the chance.) As for why the House Sparrows chose to nest so close, there is probably something about that location that is very appealing for a nest, and both the juncos and the sparrows picked up on it.
I’m sorry your junco nest didn’t work out. I’d guess you’ll get another one in not too long – juncos are very persistent. Watch where you step!
Thank you for your response. I have some strange follow-up details on this. The sparrow nest has chicks that hatched just 2 days after they “moved in” nextdoor to the junco nest. I discovered that the one bird house where I had a sparrow pair on eggs is abandoned and nesting material was coming out through the entrance. I wonder if they got attacked there and moved the nest and the eggs at the last minute. But didn’t know they can move eggs. Fact is chicks hatched way fast at the new nest location, so it does look like third degree murder to take over a nest location that they felt safe in. I like sparrows but right now I feel like those two parents belong in a jail birdhouse, not on my porch.
How certain are you that the sparrows’ nest was newly-built when you noticed it? Is it possible that it had been there a while and you hadn’t seen it until the junco incident? I ask because songbird eggs take about 14 days from laying to hatch, and as far as I’m aware sparrows are not known to be able to safely move eggs! (I don’t know how, physically, they would do it – seems like their bill would damage the egg.)
Your porch seems very exciting!
Great information, I have always loved watching and sharing space with birds. I feel a sense of agreement on both sides, with species from a group of Geoffrey’s bats in Croatia to my backyard songbirds to owls. (Herons not so much lol).
I noticed a Junco building a nest in a picture/window box that has succulents planted in it. It was right out my back slider, 5 ft away on the fence. I was conscious of them and gave space, but from inside I noticed her first egg, watched her sit on them, they hatched and both parents were feeding – it was darling! Then we had a storm. Hail and heavy rain that was so heavy it woke me up. I didn’t notice the parents- one day, then another- I couldn’t see all the way in the nest and hesitated to get too close but I finally looked and they were all dead, looked like 4 babies just a few days old 😔 Could the storm have scared off the parents? It did look like the nest had been a little damaged on the exposed side.
I saw something similar in my dissertation research – storms absolutely seem to be able to kill junco nests. I also saw some nests survive storms, so I think the severity of the storm and probably the age of the nest matters: the deadly storms had severe rain and occurred while the nests had eggs or young chicks. My guess, for your nest, is that the female would have tried to sit on the nest to protect it, but the rain and hail were too heavy and she left to shelter somewhere to save her own life. (Better to live another day and make a new nest than to die with a doomed nest.) I’m certain she came back after the storm to check the nest – I saw that in my research – but the chicks probably drowned or got too cold during the storm.
I’m sorry your nest didn’t work out. Keep an eye out though – juncos often re-nest very close to old nests!
A cat discovered a dark eyed junco nest in my potted plant. Should I remove the dead young from the nest or relocate the live ones?
Remove the dead one if you can. Don’t move the live chicks – the parents may not continue caring for them if you move them. (There’s a little bit of wiggle room in this – if you move the entire nest a very short distance and the chicks are old enough to be noisy, the parents may still care for them; but it’s risky and I wouldn’t recommend it unless leaving them where they are means certain death by cat and there’s an obviously-safer place quite nearby.) Can you exclude the cat somehow – put up some wire fencing in a wide circle around the nest maybe?
Also, if the cat had any of the live chicks in its mouth, you should take that chick to a wildlife hospital. I would never recommend removing healthy chicks from their parents, but cats’ mouths have highly infectious bacteria, and any animal that has been in a cat’s mouth needs a strong course of antibiotics from a trained wildlife vet ASAP.
Hoping the best for your junco chicks.
On my parents door wreath, there is a Mourning Dove nest with two fledglings. I repeatedly asked them to go through the garage door as to not disturb the nest. Well yesterday my mother opened the front door and all three, mother ands two fledglings flew out. I have had to put one back before a few days previously because they cannot fully fly yet. They are maybe 2.5 weeks old. Could not be sure. Anyway my mom made a poor attempt to put them back, and as of today they have not returned. The mother still hangs around the nest. Do these fledglings have a decent chance of surviving without the mother or being in the nest? Is this common for them to leave the nest before being able to fully fly?
Yes, baby doves leave the nest well before they really look like they should! They won’t be able to fly, and they’ll look pretty scraggly. This is normal: they don’t need to fly, just perch somewhere hidden and get fed by the parents. It sounds to me like they’ll be fine. (The mother should find them soon.)
Junco birds built a nest on our porch in a plant and hatched baby birds- not sure how long they were in the nest but seems like a week.
Baby birds gone now but mother and father return and hover –
Does this mean the babies were taken/eaten? Why would the parents return?
The parents’ returning seems like a bad sign. Juncos can leave the nest around 10 days old (12-15 more commonly) so your estimate puts them a bit too young, but if you’re unsure about the exact age then that’s not definitive. If the chicks left the nest and are now happy fledglings, the parents should be busy foraging for food and then secretively feeding the fledglings wherever they’ve hidden. If the parents are visibly spending a lot of time not foraging, then unfortunately it sounds like the chicks were depredated. The parents may be hanging out around the nest because they don’t know what happened, and are waiting for the chicks to call to them; certainly it seems like birds take a while before they “accept” (based on their behavior, anyway) that chicks are really gone. The parents may also be considering re-using that nest and laying more eggs in it.
I have a House Wren and Bluebird question. I have seen bluebirds in my yard so I put up a nesting box hoping that a bluebird would build a nest in the box, however a house wren has taken up residency, built a next and laid eggs. After the house wren babies have fledged, is there a way I can encourage bluebirds to nest in the box and discourage house wrens from returning?
I have three baby dark eyed juncos nesting in my flower pot. It is going to be 95, and 100 degrees In my yard for the next several days. I will move an umbrella to try and shade the chicks. Is there anything else I could do?
My post is not a “reply”, yet I hope that my bird concern might be addressed.
Yesterday, flocks of birds gathered/flitted around the wren house which hangs in an Acer japonicum, in my garden. In the wren house, it seems that a brood is being raised.
Cardinals, grackles, English sparrows, catbirds, blue jays …. landed on the tree’s branches. They appeared to be interested in the wren house.
What might cause such a Hitchcockian grouping of visitors? My sense is that they were threatening/exploiting the wren house and its hatchlings,
That multi-species gathering sounds like a response to a predator to me. The wrens may have started it by alarm-calling towards a predator (snake, cat, mouse, weasel… lots of possibilities), which then attracted this variety of curious/upset onlookers. I doubt that the birds intended any harm to the wren nestlings. Wrens are notoriously fierce and even violent towards other nesting birds, and wouldn’t be an easy target. Of the birds you named, English sparrows have a similar aggressive reputation, and jays would happily eat baby birds (but shouldn’t be able to fit through the entrance hole), but the other birds shouldn’t have any particular interest in the wrens. If the wrens disappeared after the gathering, I’d strongly suspect an unseen predator.
Hello. What a super website for bird lovers!! We are blessed to have a garden that attracts Orioles every year. This year they built a nest in our pine tree which is unusual. The nest overhangs our neighbours fence and he found a few babies on his back lawn. He managed to shepherd them to the safety of a woodpile where the female continued to feed them. The next morning I watched one appear, hopping and flapping its way across the lawn, through the chain-link fence and struggled up the ramp to the porch of our shed. I watched from our deck to follow its progress, excited in one way and very anxious in another. The female continued to feed it throughout the day but it never left the porch, instead hiding behind the handrail post. As darkness drew closer the feeding became more frequent with the baby only showing very brief activity and returning to its perch beside the post. I noticed at one point it appeared to be trying to hop up on top of the bin so I made a makeshift perch half the height of the bin and very slowly approached and gently lowered the perch beside the bin hoping it would get up higher to make the short flap to the bush just 3 feet away. The female immediately landed on the perch and hopped up and down between feedings, I assume to show the fledgling what to do but it stayed put beside the post. The night was very windy and cold so first thing in the morning I went and checked on it. Still beside the post. A few hours later I checked again. It was on the ground below its perch by the post and the female was just a few feet from it. I stayed back and saw it was lifeless. After the female left I went over to have a closer look. It was not interfered with and appeared quite normal, and from its body heat it had just died minutes ago. I am at a loss to why. I know the number of these precious beautiful birds are falling and every single one deserves to enjoy the freedom of nature, and so it made me very sad to see it die in the safety of our garden. On looking back at my constant observation from our deck 50 feet away from the shed, a few worries crossed my mind. Whenever the mother showed up with food, a lot of sparrows would surround the baby. I don’t know if they were pecking at it or trying to steal its food. Also, when it became active it seemed clumsy and I wondered if it would injure itself. At one point the female showed up with a large white object in its beak. I cant for the life of me figure out what kind of food that would be? Can you think of any reason why a seemingly healthy baby Oriole would suddenly collapse on a bright sunny summer morning? We have a garden of Orioles, Goldfinches, Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Hummingbirds and assorted Woodpeckers and losing just one of them is very painful. I hope you can make me better understand what may have happened to this precious bird.
Thank you vert much for reading this.
Ah, I’m sorry for your baby oriole. If you had just found it dead, there would be a whole host of potential predators who might have injured it without leaving a visible mark (and it’s notoriously difficult to spot wounds on birds) – but you were watching so much that it seems unlikely that you missed a predator attack. I think the most likely cause is just a health problem that the oriole happened to have. Like humans, animals are sometimes born/hatched with injuries, either due to genetics or just bad luck during development. In my years of nest monitoring I have come across a few chicks with visible malformations, and there are undoubtedly more with invisible internal problems. This would be consistent with the age of the chick – a physical issue might not matter much in the nest when the chick is hardly moving, but could suddenly cause problems when the chick leaves the nest and starts being active. The fact that the chick stayed still for so long also makes me think he might have been feeling unwell, although it’s not really persuasive on its own because young fledglings often stay quite still.
I will say that the sparrows surrounding the chick is not something I’ve seen a lot myself so I can’t be certain that it didn’t contribute. Orioles are big enough that I would think the mom would have no trouble getting the food to her chick though, and a starved chick would behave rather differently than you’ve described – there would be a lot of really frantic begging.
The white food could be a beetle grub (they get big!) or perhaps a large moth? Orioles are fruit eaters but I the young ones are fed mostly insects.
I hope the oriole’s siblings are doing well, and that you continue to see a lot of bird diversity in what sounds like an absolutely wonderful garden.
Thank you so much for that very interesting reply. I would agree that it was unwell. I have rescued quite a few birds over my lifetime, mostly from getting trapped in lawn chairs or forks in bird feeders, ect; ect;, so over the years have become tuned in to various behaviours. Unfortunately the other siblings never made an appearance from the neighbours yard, so I think the fall from the nest was more than they could handle. I never thought of grubs or moths, so that beak full of food makes perfect sense! :) We live along the Grand River and so fortunate to have so many species coming through here. They are a true blessing to this neighbourhood. Thank you again for helping me see and understand some of the reasons nature does not always follow expectations.
Wishing you a healthy and happy summer. :)