can i keep an old bird nest

Now that the leaves have fallen off the trees, I’ve discovered several intact bird’s nests around my yard. I believe one was a cardinal’s nest, another belonged to catbirds and another was a robin’s nest. Will these birds reuse their old nests next year? Will other birds use them? Finally, can they detect that a nest has been touched by human hands?

Don’t do it. While gathering nests may seem like a fun winter project, it is completely forbidden. Old, decaying nests are protected by law even though birds will never use them again. Doesn’t make sense, right? Well, here’s the problem. Before people developed an awareness of the natural world, they would gather various bird parts. Feathers, talons, and beaks were either employed for strange religious rituals or as fashion accessories. People also collected bird eggs and nests. While some people collected them for scientific purposes, the majority of them were just hoarders who enjoyed collecting things. They didn’t seem to mind if the nests were in the middle of being used or if the eggs were ready to hatch. If they found it, they kept it. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was passed by the government to shield birds from these lunatics. It is now forbidden for you to bring home feathers you find on the beach or nests you find in the woods and put them on your mantel. If you are discovered, I doubt you will be taken into custody. The law’s goal is to prevent indiscriminate collecting, which can be detrimental to a species, not to imprison the occasional nature enthusiast. However, since the law is what it is, I cannot encourage you to break it, especially if there is no benefit to me. But I have an idea about how you can gather nests without getting into any trouble.

Although complete nests are best found in late fall, there are benefits to winter, particularly when the ponds freeze over. One of the best places to find old nests is by searching the bushes along the water’s edge while walking on the ice. Moreover, snow frequently gives nests a “snow cone” appearance, which helps them stand out among the tangles of briars and branches. A word of caution: many of the clusters that appear to be bird nests are actually “dreys,” or squirrel dens. I wouldn’t put your hand or anything else in these drawings, but you are free to take as many pictures as you like.

I enjoy going outside every winter to gather dried plants and leaves, but this year I’m considering gathering old bird nests instead. Do you have any advice on locating them? Thanks.

There’s one other way to enjoy old bird nests, Jim. Simply take a few pictures and call it a day rather than spending time measuring and taking notes. Put aside who built it and try to capture the nest’s beauty with your camera. I’ve seen some really beautiful pictures of frosty nests with a striking winter sky in the distance. Lastly, if one of these nests manages to get inside your home, don’t panic. I doubt that one old nest will cause the authorities to come looking for you. But the law won’t be your biggest concern if you unintentionally bring one of these nests into my home after my wife has just cleaned it.

When the leaves have just dropped from the trees and the once-hidden nests have become visible, late autumn is the ideal time to search for old nests. The nests are still relatively fresh in the fall and haven’t been destroyed by winter storms yet. Next, get yourself a notebook and a ruler. I don’t mean to make you seem like a complete nerd, but you can use the ruler to gauge the width and depth of any nest you come across, providing you with a ballpark estimate of the size of the bird that constructed it. Note the materials used to build the nest as well as the kind of tree or shrub the nest was discovered in. Lastly, take note of the nest’s elevation above the ground and separation from the tree trunk. Although I am aware that all of this measuring and taking notes is a little clinical, nest location is occasionally the most crucial hint. Folks regularly bring me nests that they’ve found. They will say something like, “In the driveway,” when I ask them where they found the nest. Knowing the original location of the nest only allows me to speculate as to which bird it belonged to. Stated differently, I need to fabricate something (but let’s keep that private).

Cardinals, out of the three birds you named, hardly ever use an old nest. Catbirds also build new nests each spring. They will still build a whole new nest if they have another brood. The old nest is probably connected to far too many memories. Robins, on the other hand, do things a bit differently. They frequently construct new nests, but occasionally they will lay new eggs in an old nest without raising any red flags. On occasion, robins will take an existing nest and construct a new one directly atop it. It seems that they approved of the location and the foundation but disapproved of the floor plan.

With rare exceptions, the majority of birds typically construct new nests every year. That doesn’t mean you can go out and collect any nests you come across. Due to centuries of unethical collecting, laws protecting bird nests and the birds themselves have been passed by the government. Furthermore, even abandoned nests can be helpful because some socially conscious birds will reuse parts of abandoned nests the next spring. You know those birds. They are the ones with the beads, beards, and ponytails.

Since the leaves have dropped from the trees, I’ve found several intact bird nests in and around my yard. I think that one was a cardinal’s nest, another was a catbird’s nest, and a robin’s nest. Will these birds use their previous nests the following year? Will other birds use them? Lastly, are they able to recognize when a nest has been tampered with by humans?

It is the season of discovery. I used to think spring was the season of discovery. I enjoyed discovering the first crocuses, daffodils, or the lawnmower that I had neglected to store last summer as the winter snowdrifts melted. However, I soon discovered that fall had a lot more to offer. When leaves fall from the trees, treasures that are hidden are revealed. Thus far this autumn, I have discovered an ancient kingbird’s nest perched atop a small tree in the center of the Stop I’ve also noticed several oriole nests. Additionally, I found a lost Frisbee, a goldfinch nest, a blue jay nest, and the lawnmower I neglected to use last summer high up in one tree in my yard.

It would seem reasonable for birds to repurpose the nests they constructed the previous year. All they would have to do was claim an old nest and avoid having to go everywhere looking for building materials. They wouldn’t have to worry about setting up their nest and waiting for the eggs to hatch. The problem is that quality used nests are hard to come by, just like a good used toothbrush. The nests from this year may be “intact” at the moment, but by the time winter is over, they will be in fairly poor condition. Most birds are programmed by nature to start over every spring, but there are some that don’t


What do I do with an old bird nest?

Carefully inspect the nest to make sure it is empty of eggs and birds. Spray the nest with an antibacterial spray. Once dry, remove the nest and dispose of it in a securely sealed container or exterior trash bag. Dispose of it in the trash away from the home.

Should you leave old bird nests?

Why not? Most birds don’t reuse their old nests, no matter how clean they are. They typically build a new nest in a new location for each clutch. This reduces the prevalence of nest parasites such as mites and lice, too.

How long can bird nest be kept?

In general, dried bird’s nest can be stored for about three years.

Why are birds nest illegal?

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects most bird nests, making it illegal to collect and keep them.