do birds live in nests all year round

Finding a place to breed

Most birds use the duration of the day to determine the season throughout the year. When the number of daylight hours surpasses a particular threshold, birds undergo physiological adjustments that prime them for procreation. The majority of birds, particularly those found in temperate climates, also schedule their mating seasons to feed their young during the times when food is most plentiful. However, birds must choose a breeding area well in advance of the arrival of nestlings. Non-migratory species have two options: they can either create a new territory in the spring or keep their current one through the winter. As soon as migratory birds arrive in the spring, they start searching for and defending a territory. Good territories offer safe havens from predators, dependable food sources, and possible nest sites.

You might be wondering where birds spend the long, chilly nights in December as the days get shorter, like this Steller’s Jay and others. You might be surprised to hear that they aren’t curled up in comfortable nests.

Songbirds locate a spot to perch where they are shielded from the rain and nighttime predators. This Red-breasted Nuthatch and other small forest birds may spend the night huddled together in tree cavities. Ducks float in protected bays. Woodpeckers, like this Downy Woodpecker, cling to vertical tree trunks. Crows roost communally.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York’s Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds provided the bird calls. Red-breasted Nuthatch recorded by G. A. Keller; Mallards by A. A. Allen; Downy Woodpecker by W. W. H. Gunn; European Starlings recorded by Martyn Stewart, naturesound. org; Forest ambient including Steller’s Jay, recorded by C. Peterson.

Birds only spend the winter sleeping in their nests when they are raising their young or incubating eggs. For the remainder of the year, birds choose a place to roost. Often they use the same roost night after night.

Where Birds Come to Life

do birds live in nests all year round

In North America, more than 700 different bird species breed, and their behavioral variations are intricate and fascinating. Different species use radically different strategies to find mates, construct nests, lay eggs, and raise their young. This overview is a generalization of the avian nesting cycle. See our guide to common nesting birds for additional details on each bird’s nesting cycle.


Do birds sleep in nests in the winter?

The only time of the year when birds sleep in nests is when they are incubating eggs or keeping their young warm. During the rest of the year, birds select a roosting spot. Often they use the same roost night after night. Songbirds find a protected place to perch, sheltered from rain and safe from nighttime predators.

Do birds sleep in the same place every night?

Though most birds don’t rest in the same place each and every night and have a choice of roosting sites they will all tend to be close to where the bird has spent the day feeding. Sleep can be a dangerous time for birds, due to danger from cold and predators.

How long do birds stay in nest?

After 2 or 3 weeks, most songbirds are usually ready to leave the nest. Other birds, such as raptors, may stay in the nest for as long as 8 to 10 weeks. In contrast, precocial birds spend hardly any time in the nest and are often seen wandering in search of food alongside their parents only hours after hatching.

Where do birds sleep when they don’t have nests?

Dense brush or foliage does fine. Bigger birds have more options and can sleep on the water, on a branch, or even just right on the ground. Go figure: nests are for keeping eggs and chicks in one place, and not all birds even construct them.