what month do birds start building nests

Birds Building Nests: When Does It Begin?

Did you know that over 700 bird species breed in North America, and the variations in their behaviors are truly fascinating? Different birds find mates, build nests, lay eggs, and raise their young in remarkably diverse ways. One of the most captivating aspects of avian biology is the timing of when birds start building their nests each year.

According to a national study by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), many bird species in the UK are breeding up to 31 days earlier than they were in the 1960s due to climate change. This unexpected finding highlights just how sensitive birds can be to environmental cues that trigger their nesting behaviors. With the arrival of spring, birds across North America will soon be busy constructing their intricate homes, a sight that heralds the start of the breeding season.

Key Takeaways

  • Birds use day length to determine when it’s time to breed and build nests.
  • Nesting activity is timed to coincide with peak food availability to feed their young.
  • Many bird species in the UK are nesting significantly earlier than in the past due to climate change.
  • Nest building can begin as early as February for some species, while others wait until April or even later.
  • Understanding when birds start nesting is crucial for managing potential conflicts with human activities.

Understanding Bird Nesting Season

As the natural world awakens with the arrival of spring, a remarkable avian phenomenon occurs – the start of bird nesting season. This critical period, typically spanning from around March 20 to June 20, marks a pivotal time in the lives of our feathered friends as they seek the ideal location to build their nests and raise their young.

When Is Bird Nesting Season?

By the start of spring, around March 20, the nesting season has already begun. Birds are actively searching for the perfect spot to construct their homes, ensuring access to food, water, warmth, shelter, and safety from predators. This spring bird activity and migratory bird behaviors are essential to observe, as they can significantly impact various aspects of our lives.

When Does Nesting Season Start?

While the exact timing may vary slightly based on geographical location and species, the general consensus is that bird nesting season begins around the start of spring, around March 20. This is the time when birds are actively engaged in the process of finding a suitable territory, attracting a mate, and building their nests to lay and incubate their eggs.

Understanding the intricacies of bird nesting season is crucial, as taking the proper actions during this time can save you a significant amount of hassle, prevent product damage, and mitigate future bird-related issues. By recognizing the importance of this seasonal behavior, we can better coexist with our feathered neighbors and ensure the continued well-being of bird populations.

“The oldest nest in the museum collection is a 254-year-old hummingbird nest collected during James Cook’s Endeavour Voyage in 1768 in Rio de Janeiro.”

Preparing for Breeding

As the breeding season approaches, birds engage in a variety of behaviors to secure a suitable territory and attract a mate. For non-migratory species, this may involve maintaining a territory throughout the winter or establishing a new one in the spring. Migratory birds, on the other hand, begin looking for and defending a territory as soon as they arrive on their breeding grounds.

Finding a Suitable Territory

A good territory provides a bird with essential resources like potential nest sites, reliable food sources, and protection from predators. Birds invest significant time and effort into claiming and defending their territories, which can range from a few acres to several square miles, depending on the species.

Attracting a Mate

While territories are being claimed, birds also focus on attracting a mate. Females assess a male’s overall quality and vigor, and males use various courtship displays to advertise their suitability as a partner. These displays can include bright breeding plumage, bringing food to the female, demonstrating nest-building abilities, and engaging in vocalizations such as singing, drumming, or calling.

The mating systems of birds can vary, with some species exhibiting monogamy, where a pair forms a lasting bond, while others may practice polygyny (one male mating with multiple females) or polyandry (one female mating with multiple males). These complex social and reproductive behaviors are essential for the successful breeding of bird species.

bird mating rituals

“The diversity of mating systems observed in birds is a testament to the evolutionary adaptations that have shaped their reproductive strategies.”

Understanding the bird territorial behavior and courtship displays involved in pair bonding is crucial for appreciating the intricate preparations birds undertake before the onset of the breeding season.

The Nest Building Process

As the breeding season approaches, birds begin the intricate process of nest construction. Nests provide a safe and secure environment for eggs and hatchlings, protecting them from predators and the elements. The nest building process is a fascinating display of avian engineering, showcasing the diverse techniques and materials used by different bird species.

Birds select nesting sites based on factors such as availability of suitable materials, proximity to food sources, and protection from potential threats. Some species, like the wood pigeon, start nesting well before spring, while others time their nesting activities to coincide with the arrival of warmer weather and abundant food sources.

“Providing nest boxes can help various bird species find suitable nesting places, contributing to their breeding success.”

The nest building process itself can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the bird species and the availability of materials. Birds utilize a wide range of natural and human-made materials, including grass, leaves, mud, lichen, fur, and even human-discarded items like twine, rope, and pet hair.

While females typically take the lead in nest construction, some species involve both parents or even just the male in the process. The resulting nests can be found in a variety of locations, from trees and shrubs to the ground, burrows, cliffs, and even human-made structures.

Nest types also vary greatly, ranging from simple scrapes in the ground to intricate, cup-shaped structures, and even pendulous nests that hang from tree branches. Understanding the unique nest types and nest locations of different bird species is crucial for their successful conservation and protection.

Mating and Egg Formation

As the breeding season approaches, birds undergo significant hormonal changes that prepare them for the critical tasks of mating and egg production. The internal testes of male birds can swell to more than 1,000 times their normal size, while the ovaries and oviduct of females also increase in size to facilitate egg fertilization and development.

Copulation and Fertilization

During the mating process, the male bird’s cloaca (a common opening for the digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems) contacts and ejects sperm into the cloaca of the female. The sperm then travel to the oviduct, where they can be stored for extended periods, awaiting the release of the female’s eggs.

Egg Development and Laying

Ovulation and egg laying typically take around 24 hours, meaning that female birds can produce at most one egg per day. The total number of eggs a female lays in a single nesting attempt, known as the clutch size, varies widely depending on the species. Factors such as food availability, calcium levels, latitude, the female’s age, weather conditions, and the time of year can all influence the size of a bird’s clutch.

For example, some late-nesting species like the American Goldfinch may start building nests and laying eggs as late as June, July, or even September. In contrast, other birds like the American Robin and Cardinal can have multiple broods in a single year, with each nesting cycle lasting around a month.

“Birds can have up to six broods in a year in southern latitudes, extending their nesting season into early fall.”

The nesting process can be broken down into several distinct behavioral stages, which can help identify the approximate time when a bird is likely to lay its eggs.

bird eggs

Incubation Period

The incubation period is a crucial stage in the reproductive cycle of birds. During this time, birds carefully incubate their eggs to maintain the proper temperature and ensure normal development. The duration of the incubation period varies depending on the bird species, but it typically ranges from 11 to 30 days.

Female songbirds often begin incubation after laying all their eggs, ensuring the hatchlings emerge around the same time. In contrast, some birds, such as herons, cranes, cormorants, and raptors, commence incubation as soon as the first egg is laid, leading to a staggered hatching process. Interestingly, in certain species, like the Black-headed Grosbeak, both the male and female birds participate in the incubation duties.

The size of the bird is also a factor in determining the incubation period. Larger birds generally have longer incubation periods compared to smaller species. For example, American Crows have an incubation period of 16-18 days, while Anna’s Hummingbirds have a 14-19 day incubation period.

“Altricial bird species, such as songbirds, typically require 11 to 14 days of incubation before hatching, while precocial bird species, like shorebirds and waterfowl, have longer incubation periods, with Great horned owl eggs hatching in about 30 days.”

During the bird egg incubation period, both parents often take turns sitting on the nest, providing parental care and ensuring the incubation duration is maintained. This dedicated effort helps ensure the successful development and hatching of the eggs, marking a crucial milestone in the bird’s life cycle.

Hatching and Nestling Care

As the eggs in a bird’s nest begin to hatch, a new and critical phase of parental care emerges. Depending on the species, the newly hatched bird hatchlings can be classified as either altricial or precocial. Understanding this distinction is key to comprehending the unique challenges and needs of nestling birds.

Altricial vs Precocial Young

Songbirds and most seabirds have altricial young, meaning the newly hatched birds are blind, featherless, and helpless. These nestlings remain in the nest where their parents can feed and protect them as they continue to develop. In contrast, precocial species, such as ducks and many shorebirds, are born fully feathered, mobile, and with eyes open. The differences in maturity level at hatching significantly impact the parental care required for these two groups of birds.

Feeding the Hatchlings

Regardless of whether the young are altricial or precocial, the parental care of nestlings is an extremely demanding and dangerous time for both the adult and young birds. To keep up with the voracious food demands of the growing nestling growth and development, parents must continuously forage for an abundance of insects, seeds, or other suitable prey. The increased activity and begging cries of the nestlings can also attract predators, putting the entire family at risk.

“The survival of the nest’s occupants depends on the parents’ ability to provide a steady supply of food and vigilant protection from threats.”

As the nestlings mature, they will gradually transition from relying solely on their parents for sustenance to eventually becoming independent and self-sufficient fledglings.

altricial vs precocial birds

Fledging and Independence

As young birds reach a certain stage of their development, typically around 2 to 3 weeks after hatching, they are ready to take their first flight and leave the nest. This process, known as fledging, marks a critical milestone in the juvenile bird development. While the exact timing can vary depending on the species, most songbirds will fledge within this timeframe.

However, the journey to independence does not end there. After taking their maiden flight, these fledgling birds often remain close to their parents for a short period, where they continue to learn essential survival skills. This is a crucial phase, as the first year survival rate for young birds is typically quite low. More than half of the first-year birds in nearly all bird species do not make it to adulthood, succumbing to the many challenges they face.

  • Predators pose a significant threat to the vulnerable fledglings, as they lack the experience and physical prowess to evade their hunters.
  • Starvation is another major concern, as young birds must learn how to successfully forage and procure their own food.
  • The elements, such as extreme weather conditions, can also take a toll on the delicate fledglings.

For those birds that do manage to survive their challenging first year, the odds of reaching adulthood improve dramatically. Once they have honed their survival skills and become fully independent, these resilient individuals have a much greater chance of thriving in the years to come.

“The first year is the toughest; in nearly all bird species, more than half of the first year birds perish.”

The transition from nestling to fledgling is a crucial and vulnerable period in a bird’s life cycle. By understanding the challenges these young birds face and the importance of this stage in their juvenile bird development, we can better appreciate the remarkable resilience and adaptability of our avian neighbors.

Variation in Nesting Behaviors

While birds follow a general pattern in their nesting cycle, there is significant interspecies variation in nesting behaviors across different species. Some species, like the American Robin, can have up to 4 or 5 multiple broods (successive nests) during a single breeding season, while others only nest once.

DNA analyses have shown that even birds that presumably “mate for life,” such as bluebirds, may not always be serially monogamous. Nestlings in a single nest can potentially be fathered by different males. Additionally, males of some species, such as Red-winged Blackbirds and House Wrens, can have more than one mate at a time (polygyny), and females of some species, such as Wilson’s Phalaropes, may have more than one mate as well (polyandry).

interspecies variation in nesting

“The diversity of nesting behaviors in the avian world is truly remarkable, reflecting the species’ adaptations to their unique environments and evolutionary strategies.”

Differences Across Species

Each bird species has developed distinct nesting behaviors and strategies that are tailored to their specific ecological niches and resource availability. Factors such as diet, habitat, and even climate can influence a species’ interspecies variation in nesting patterns.

Multiple Broods in a Season

  • Some birds, like the American Robin, are capable of raising multiple broods in a single breeding season, sometimes constructing up to 4 or 5 nests.
  • This ability to produce successive clutches is often influenced by the availability of food, the length of the breeding season, and the birds’ energetic reserves.
  • In contrast, other species, such as the Common Loon, typically only have a single nesting attempt per year due to their longer incubation periods and the challenges of their northern breeding habitats.

The remarkable diversity of nesting behaviors observed in the avian world reflects the remarkable adaptations of bird species to their unique environments and evolutionary strategies.

Nesting Site Selection

When it comes to building their nests, birds are highly selective about the location they choose. The bird nesting site preferences and nest location factors play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and success of their breeding efforts.

Good nesting territories provide potential nest sites, reliable food sources, and protection from predators. Birds meticulously assess various factors, such as the availability of suitable nesting materials, proximity to food and water, and potential threats, before settling on the perfect spot to build their homes.

The specific nesting site selected can vary greatly between species, ranging from tree cavities and branches to cliff ledges, burrows, and even human-made structures. For instance, some birds may prefer to build their nests in dense foliage, while others opt for more open and exposed locations.

“The choice of a nesting site is one of the most critical decisions a bird makes during its breeding cycle, as it can significantly impact the survival of the chicks and the overall success of the nesting attempt.”

Understanding the bird nesting site preferences and nest location factors is crucial for conservation efforts, as it helps researchers and wildlife managers identify and protect important breeding areas for various bird species.

Territorial Defense Tactics

As birds build their nests and prepare for the breeding season, they must fiercely defend their territories from intruders. This instinctual behavior is crucial for ensuring the safety of their eggs and hatchlings. Two of the most common territorial defense tactics employed by birds are dive bombing and broken wing displays.

Dive Bombing and Broken Wing Displays

Many backyard birds, as well as birds of prey, are known to dive bomb in an attempt to scare off potential threats. This aggressive behavior involves the bird rapidly descending from the sky, often with talons extended, to deter predators or competitors from approaching the nest. Colonial nesting species, such as black skimmers and least terns, also utilize dive bombing as a primary defense mechanism to protect their breeding grounds.

Another tactic used by birds like killdeer and other plovers is the broken wing display. In this behavior, the adult bird will pretend to have a broken wing, fluttering and limping away from the nest to lure potential threats away from the vulnerable eggs or hatchlings. This distraction technique makes the adult appear as an easy target, drawing the attention of the intruder and allowing the young to remain undisturbed.

bird territorial defense

The effectiveness of these territorial defense tactics is crucial for the survival of bird species. Studies have shown that birds that are successful in defending their nests and territories have a higher rate of reproductive success, with more eggs hatching and more hatchlings surviving to the fledgling stage.

“Birds will go to great lengths to protect their nests and young, often putting themselves at risk in the process.”

Understanding the various strategies birds employ to defend their territories is an essential part of appreciating the complex behaviors and adaptations of these remarkable creatures.

Respecting Nesting Areas

As the nesting season approaches, it’s crucial to be mindful of the resident bird populations and respect their nesting areas. Before a bird goes into full defense mode, there may be some warning signs that you are getting too close to their territory or young, such as changes in posture or vocalizations. It is important to give them space and avoid repeated disturbances, as this can lead to an unsuccessful nesting season.

Recognizing Warning Signs

When observing birds in your area, pay attention to their behaviors. Some common warning signs that you’re too close to a nesting area include:

  • Aggressive vocalizations, such as loud, repetitive chirping or scolding calls
  • Swooping or diving behavior, as if the bird is trying to scare you away
  • Changes in body posture, such as puffed-up feathers or a hunched, defensive stance

If you notice these behaviors, it’s best to back away slowly and avoid the area until the nesting season has passed.

Legal Protections for Birds

It’s important to note that most of the bird species you are likely to encounter are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, even if they don’t appear to migrate from your backyard in the winter. This means that you cannot attempt to remove the nest of any federally protected birds. Doing so could result in significant fines and other legal consequences.

By respecting the nesting areas of birds and recognizing their warning signs, we can avoid disturbing nesting birds and support the migratory bird protections in place. This helps ensure a successful nesting season for our feathered friends and maintains the delicate balance of our local ecosystems.

“Respecting the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it is a fundamental responsibility we all share. By being mindful of our actions and the impact we have, we can create a more harmonious coexistence with the birds and other wildlife around us.”

what month do birds start building nests

As spring approaches, nature comes alive with the bustling activity of birds preparing to nest and raise their young. The spring bird nesting timeline typically begins around March 20, the start of the spring season, as birds start looking for the ideal location to build their nests and begin the cycle of reproduction.

Different bird species have varying nesting timelines, but the general pattern is that most birds start building nests in the spring, between March and June. The American robin, for example, typically begins nesting in late February or early March, while the European robin starts a bit later, around mid-March. The common loon, on the other hand, lays its eggs in late May or early June.

Some bird species, like the common tern, don’t start nesting until as late as July. The nesting season and egg-laying process can also be influenced by factors such as latitude, weather patterns, and the availability of food and other resources.

“The incubation process can take between 11 and 21 days, depending on the species of bird.”

Regardless of the specific timeline, the spring bird nesting season is a critical time for these feathered friends as they work to ensure the survival of their species. By understanding when birds start building nests, we can better appreciate and protect these important natural processes.

spring bird nesting

Nest Removal Guidelines

When it comes to dealing with bird nests, it’s crucial to approach the situation with care and caution. Not all bird species are created equal, and their nesting behavior can vary significantly. Understanding how to properly identify nuisance birds and safely remove their nests is key to maintaining a harmonious coexistence.

Identifying Nuisance Birds

The most common nuisance bird species that homeowners may encounter are English house sparrows, European starlings, and. These non-native birds are known to be prolific nesters, often finding their way into urban and suburban areas and causing potential problems for homeowners.

Safe Nest Removal Procedures

When it comes to removing bird nests, it’s essential to prioritize safety. Bird nests and droppings can harbor a variety of diseases, so it’s crucial to take the necessary precautions. Always use proper personal protective equipment, such as gloves and a facemask, and consider wetting the material with a spray bottle before attempting to remove the nest.

  • Wear gloves to protect your hands from debris and potential bites or scratches.
  • Use a facemask to avoid inhaling any harmful particles or pathogens.
  • Lightly mist the nest with water to minimize the spread of dust and debris.
  • Carefully remove the nest and dispose of it in a secure, sealed container.

It’s important to note that if you encounter a nest belonging to a federally protected bird species or an active nest with eggs, you should contact the appropriate wildlife authorities or professionals who can safely relocate the nest. Tampering with protected bird nests can result in legal consequences.

“Proper identification and safe handling are essential when dealing with nuisance bird nests. Prioritizing safety ensures a successful and responsible removal process.”

By following these guidelines and utilizing the right safety measures, homeowners can effectively manage bird nest removal and maintain a healthy, nuisance bird species-free environment. Staying informed and vigilant is the key to nest removal safety and coexisting peacefully with our feathered neighbors.

Integrated Pest Management

When it comes to managing bird nesting issues, an integrated approach is crucial. Integrated bird pest management involves a comprehensive strategy that addresses the root causes of the problem, rather than relying solely on reactive measures.

Reducing Attractants

The first step in effective integrated pest management is to reduce the attractants that draw birds to your area. This includes eliminating readily available bird attractants such as food, water, and nesting materials. Keep the surrounding environment clean, seal off potential nesting sites, and educate staff on the importance of maintaining a bird-unfriendly environment.

Monitoring and Nest Removal

Proactive nest monitoring is essential for managing bird populations. Regularly inspect your facility for signs of nesting activity and remove any newly constructed nests as soon as possible, taking care to avoid disturbing active nests with eggs or hatchlings.

Establishing clear guidelines and procedures for nest removal can help ensure a humane and effective approach to managing bird populations. Train your staff to identify and safely remove nuisance bird nests, while adhering to all relevant laws and regulations.

“Implementing an Integrated Pest Management program is the most effective way to keep your facility free from the impact of nesting birds.”

By combining bird attractant reduction strategies with proactive monitoring and nest removal, you can create an environment that is less appealing to birds and minimize the disruption they can cause. This holistic approach to integrated bird pest management is the key to maintaining a bird-free facility.

integrated bird pest management


As we’ve explored throughout this article, understanding the bird nesting season and the various stages of the avian breeding cycle is crucial for coexisting harmoniously with our feathered neighbors. From the early territorial displays and courtship rituals to the delicate process of nest building, egg laying, incubation, and fledgling care, each aspect of the nesting season plays a vital role in the continued survival and success of our local bird populations.

By recognizing the key bird nesting season summary and heeding the important key takeaways, we can effectively manage and support nesting birds without disrupting their critical breeding behaviors. Through proactive measures such as providing appropriate nesting resources, respecting occupied nesting areas, and implementing responsible pest management strategies, we can foster an environment that enables birds to thrive and contribute to the rich biodiversity of our communities.

As we move forward, let us continue to cultivate a deeper appreciation and understanding of the avian world around us, recognizing the intricate web of life that binds us all. By embracing our role as stewards of the natural environment, we can ensure that the vibrant sounds and sights of nesting birds will continue to grace our yards and neighborhoods for generations to come.


What month do birds start building nests?

Bird nesting season usually occurs in spring, around March 20 to June 20. By the start of spring (around March 20), nesting season has already started, as birds are looking for the optimal place to build a nest and raise their young.

When is bird nesting season?

Bird nesting season typically takes place in the spring, around March 20 to June 20. This is the time when birds are actively seeking out suitable nest sites, mating, and building their nests to lay and incubate eggs.

When does nesting season start?

Nesting season typically begins around the start of spring, which is usually around March 20. By this time, birds have already started looking for the best locations to build their nests and raise their young.

How do birds find a suitable territory to build their nest?

Birds look for territories that provide potential nest sites, reliable food sources, and protection from predators. Non-migratory species may maintain a territory throughout the winter or establish a new one in the spring, while migratory birds begin looking for and defending a territory as soon as they arrive.

How do birds attract a mate during the breeding season?

Males advertise their suitability as a mate through various courtship displays, such as exhibiting bright breeding plumage, bringing food to females, demonstrating their nest-building abilities, and singing or drumming. Females choose mates based on an assessment of the male’s overall quality and vigor.

What kinds of materials do birds use to build their nests?

Bird nests are extremely diverse, with each species typically having a characteristic nest style. Some birds use natural materials like grass, leaves, mud, lichen, and fur, while others may incorporate human-made materials such as paper, plastic, and yarn. Nests can be found in a variety of locations, including trees, burrows, cliff ledges, and on human-made structures.

How do birds mate and lay eggs?

During the breeding season, hormonal changes cause the male’s testes and the female’s ovaries and oviduct to increase in size. Copulation occurs when the male’s cloaca contacts and ejects sperm into the female’s cloaca. The sperm then travel to the oviduct, where they can be stored for long periods. Ovulation and egg laying typically occur over the course of about 24 hours, with females laying at most one egg per day.

How long do birds incubate their eggs?

The incubation period for birds varies depending on the species, but typically the larger the bird, the longer the incubation period. Female songbirds usually begin incubation after they have finished laying all of their eggs, while other birds, such as herons and raptors, may start incubation as soon as the first egg is laid.

How do birds care for their hatchlings?

Newly hatched birds can be either altricial or precocial. Altricial young, such as songbirds and most seabirds, are born blind, featherless, and helpless, and require constant care and feeding from their parents. Precocial species, like ducks and shorebirds, are born fully feathered, mobile, and with eyes open. Both types of young rely on their parents for food and protection until they are ready to fledge and become independent.

When do young birds leave the nest (fledge)?

The timing of fledging varies by species, but most songbirds typically fledge within 2 or 3 weeks after hatching. Other birds, such as raptors, may remain in the nest for as long as 8 to 10 weeks. After fledging, young birds typically remain close to their parents for a short period, where they must learn to survive on their own.

How can I safely remove a bird nest from my property?

You can safely remove the nests of non-protected species like English house sparrows, European starlings, and pigeons. However, if you have a nest of federally protected birds, you should contact the appropriate professionals who can properly relocate it. When removing any nest, be sure to use proper safety equipment like gloves and a facemask, and wet the material before removal to avoid dust and debris.

How can I prevent birds from nesting in unwanted areas?

Establishing an Integrated Bird Pest Management program can help reduce nesting issues. This involves reducing attractants like food, water, and nesting materials, regularly monitoring for and removing new nests, and using deterrents or exclusion methods to prevent birds from accessing vulnerable areas. It’s important to take a proactive and humane approach to coexisting with nesting birds.

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