Birds Nest in Odd Places!

Late spring into early summer, birds are busily nesting.  

People are also busily calling with interesting reports of nests in strange places or weird circumstances! 

Birds are adaptable and often the cycle of nest-building and egg-laying happens pretty fast, so you never know what you might find, or when...

Nests in Odd Places 

Photo: Leslie Lovett

This bird (reported by the car owner to be a Carolina Chickadee) built a nest in the shock absorber of a Jeep Wrangler! She laid three eggs in the nest, and it had survived at least three trips before being discovered by the owner. Typically Carolina Wrens are the cavity-nesters.

"One of my favorite stories is of a Carolina Wren who built a nest behind a spare tire mounted on the back of a vehicle" describes Curtis Smalling, director of conservation for Audubon North Carolina. "The owner drove about 15 miles to the grocery store and just noticed the nest (with the mother bird sitting!) when they went to put their groceries in the back hatch. They chose not to disturb her further and the bird and nest rode successfully back home, where the car stayed parked for the next two weeks while they finished their brood."

Carolina Wren in a Black Walnut tree. Photo: David Swaim

Carolina Wrens are famous for nesting in unexpected cavities like the pocket of a hanging coat, or a tin can in a shed or barn.

"I had one nest on the upturned bottom of my weedeater" says Smalling. "I needed to weedeat so I gently removed the nest with eggs and set it on a shelf close by, weedeated, then leaned it back against the wall and reset the nest.  The parents continued to use it and raised a successful brood."

Since we began our Brown-headed Nuthatch project across the state folks have reported nuthatches nesting in the folds of a closed table umbrella, inside a gas grill, and a variety of window casings, door openings, and other novel cavities.

We also get a lot of calls about birds building their nest in an odd location for the species - Smalling has found an American Robin nest on the ground in some weeds like a sparrow (normally in the trees or shrubs). After a black snake predated a Dark-eyed Junco nest at his house, the birds rebuilt inside a damaged part of the eave of the house. Very un-Junco like for a bird that normally nests on the ground!

The Winner

"My favorite has to be a Dark-eyed Junco that made itself at home at a friend’s house" says Smalling. "They lived high on a mountain far from neighbors and had about 6 labradors which ran about all day while the family was at work and school. The door to the house stayed open all day everyday so the dogs could come and go. One evening at dinner the family was seated to begin and a junco hopped onto the table and started picking at crumbs and trying to eat dinner with the family.  As it turns out the birds had built a nest in the kitchen in a potted plant in the window! The successfully raised babies and had the added protection of indoor living with six guard dogs keeping the other predators at bay."

Dark-eyed Junco. Photo: Sue Barth/Great Backyard Bird Count

Relocating Nests

So keep your eyes peeled for these novel locations and attempts, and when you do find one - enjoy that novelty and track their progress!

If it is in an unworkable location, you can remove the nest. If no eggs are laid the birds will likely retry in a different location. If there are eggs or babies you can try moving the nest a short distance away so the bird can find it easily. Try to pick a secure location in a similar situation (protected from weather and predators if possible).

You can relocate some nests into nest boxes if they can be placed close enough to the original spot but often with that level of disturbance the birds will abandon that nest. If they are a multiple brooder (meaning having more than one nest per year) they will likely try again!

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