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Baby Birds

Found nestling

Q: I found a baby bird on the ground. What should I do? I don’t want it to die.

A: If the bird is not injured, the best possible thing to do is to put it back in its nest as soon as you find it. Please visit our page on "Orphaned Baby Birds" for tips and information.

Incubation and fledging

Q: How long do birds usually incubate their eggs? And, once hatched, how long does it usually take for young birds to fledge from the nest?

A: The time for incubation varies from species to species but, as a general rule of thumb, it takes most songbirds two weeks to incubate their young and another two weeks before the young are ready to leave the nest. Visit our “Nesting Information” page for specific incubation and fledging periods for many common species.

Painting/construction near nests

Q: There is a bird nest very near my house. I have some painting and construction projects on my house that I want to do this summer. Can I just move the nest to another location close by?

A: Birds are very sensitive to their environment during the breeding season. In particular, you take a big risk when you move a nest, even if you move it a short distance. The bird may abandon the nest and anything in it. Additionally, it is illegal to disturb the nests of birds protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

A few people have told us that they had their house painted, including the area by the nest, and the birds were able to successfully fledge their young. Others have chosen to wait till the young fledge before beginning any projects. In general, from the time the bird begins sitting on its eggs until the young are ready to leave the nest, four weeks will pass. If you can afford to wait, that’s the best choice for the birds.

Pigeons

Q: Why don't we ever see any baby pigeons?

A: This is one of those urban mysteries that does have an answer! Pigeon nests are well-hidden and the young usually stay in the nests until nearly full-grown. Often, the young birds, or squabs as they are called, become even bigger  than their parents just before they leave the nest. By the time we see them walking and flying around, it’s hard to tell them apart from their parents. No wonder most people never see baby pigeons!