And Then There Were None

And my birdies flew the coop. I missed their departure, but last night I walked outside and there were like six birds in my little oak tree, and as soon as I walked down the stairs they all flew off and it startled me. I blurted out “what the hell is going on” because I talk to birds, trees, seedlings, plants and sometimes even walls I bump into, and made nothing of it. Then when I came out this afternoon, it was eerily quiet on the porch, so I climbed up on my step ladder and sure enough they were all gone.

They grow up so quickly. Now I don’t know what to do with the nest. Should I leave it there or clean up so new tenants will move in?

48 replies
  1. 1

    I would clean it up. Old nests can harbor parasites that can damage the birdlings.

  2. 2
    Jay says:

    Leave it, don’t clean it.

    In a good year they may have a second brood in the same nest.

  3. 3
    MomSense says:

    Leave it. The birds know what to do.

  4. 4
    debbie says:

    Wasn’t there a second family in a hanging basket?

  5. 5
    david says:

    If they’re millennial birds, a couple of them may return in a day or two… ;)

  6. 6
    Stan says:

    Clean it up. Birds always start from scratch and can’t (or won’t) repair an existing nest.

  7. 7
    J R in WV says:

    I’m with Cheryl, they can build a new clean nest if they like the spot, which why wouldn’t they? Success!!

  8. 8


    Birds always start from scratch and can’t (or won’t) repair an existing nest.

    This is not true. Some kinds of birds- eagles are a good example- keep coming back to the same nest and will expand it year after year. Others will take over a nest that a different bird had previously used; many cavity nesting birds will use old woodpecker nests if they can’t excavate their own cavities. Other kinds of birds will build a new nest every time to avoid parasites.

  9. 9
    TheOtherHank says:

    Clean it up. No one else will use it.

  10. 10
    Ohio Mom says:

    According to google: “House finch (note: several commentators have identified the eggs as House finch eggs, that’s what I’m going on) can have up to six broods each year between March and August, but they are more likely to have two or three. They also will reuse their nests for the subsequent broods. A house finch is more likely to return to her nest than she is to pick the same mate.”

  11. 11
    dnfree says:

    Leave the nest. Honest, we have experience with birds reusing the same nest in our geraniums, sometimes the same year and sometimes even remodeled in future years. (We winter over our hanging geraniums). Also I think it’s illegal to mess with bird nests even after they’re abandoned.

  12. 12
    JanieM says:

    @Stan: @Roger Moore: I’m with Roger Moore. I have happened to be outside on a day in May when the cliff swallows that nested under the eaves of our old house came back from their winter sojourn elsewhere, and flew straight to where the old nests would have been if the old house hadn’t been gutted in the meantime. They would hover near those eaves, chattering (pissed off, no doubt!), then swoop away for a bit, then swoop back, hover, and chatter some more.

    They switched their base of operations to the barn, and later to the eaves of the new house when it was finished.

    I have also known house sparrows to kill baby cliff swallows and build their straw bowl nests inside the newly vacated cliff swallow nests. (There’s a lot online about this because house sparrows do the same thing to bluebirds and bluebird nests, and lots of people like to encourage bluebirds, and therefore have to discourage house sparrows. Google why there are house sparrows on this continent in the first place….there seem to be several versions, but what a bunch of idiots we humans are.)

    I sometimes feel left out here at BJ when pet-talk is going on, but I could tell a few cliff swallow stories, and I don’t even have to feed them or pay vet bills. :-) I love listening to their chatter for those few weeks in the spring and early summer when the baby birds are in the nest.

  13. 13
    PsiFighter37 says:

    Burn them all

    PF37 +7

  14. 14
    JanieM says:

    @dnfree: SeeThe Migratory Bird Treaty Act. IANAL, so I’m not sure if all the listed things you’re not allowed to do include removing nests from your house…..maybe someone else knows. If it does, and the murderous house sparrows are covered, then I just conceivably might have violated it……

  15. 15
    CarolPW says:

    @dnfree: It’s illegal to mess with empty eagle nests without a permit but other empty nests are fair game.

    ETA as Janie says the MBTA covers occupied nests, so messing with occupied nests is forbidden unless they are of a limited number of species.

  16. 16
    Wapiti says:

    Clean it up, in case there are vermin or parasites entrenched that could harm future nestings.

    eta: I yield to wiser heads.

  17. 17
    piratedan says:

    i think you need to contact your realtor because there could be squatters rights issues, and we haven’t even talked about if you’re getting your security deposit back….

  18. 18
    LuciaMia says:

    Ha, and I thought the debate over where John should plant his willow tree got heated.

  19. 19
    satby says:

    Wow, they do grow fast! What was that, like 2 weeks?

  20. 20
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @PsiFighter37: Dude, +7? Maybe have a club soda next?

  21. 21

    I’ll change my vote to “leave the nest” after some consultation of the internet. Some birds reuse nests, others don’t. The advice I had on a nest box from an ornithologist was to clean it out. From my scanning the internet, it looks like wrens like to start a new nest, and wrens are what the nest box was for.

  22. 22
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    Burn them all


    PF37 +7

    Yikes +7

  23. 23
    something fabulous says:

    And not even time to install the SLIDEOMATIC 3700!

  24. 24

    @LuciaMia: The willow is too close to the blog.

  25. 25


    Yikes +7

    You must be new here.

  26. 26


    Yikes +7

    There’s a reason we call him PsiFighter+37.

  27. 27
    Aleta says:

    @JanieM: I love swallows and their beautiful paths in flight. Tell those stories any time please. Don’t they eat black flies too?

  28. 28
    swiffox says:

    House sparrows not protected under MBTA.

  29. 29
    swiftfox says:

    House sparrows not protected under MBTA.

  30. 30
    JanieM says:

    @Aleta: :-)

    Yes, I think they do eat blackflies, and I too love to watch them swooping, especially in the evenings. Luckily for me, since I react very badly to black fly bites, I live in a windy spot, and the wind keeps the black flies down pretty well. Other times of year I’m not necessarily so happy with the wind.

    There are cliff swallows and nests at Pemaquid Light, for what it’s worth. They don’t seem to be all that common, or maybe I just don’t get out enough.

  31. 31
    BGinCHI says:

    Cole’s Tombstone:

    The Walt Whitman of West Virginia

  32. 32
    JanieM says:

    A collage of cliff swallow pics from when I was in a photo group a few years ago. I don’t have a fancy camera, but it was fun trying to catch them in some recognizable fashion.

    ETA: the group took a pic each week to fit a theme that one of the members set. Cliff swallows seemed to fit the theme “zippy” pretty well.

  33. 33
    trollhattan says:

    In anticipation there’s a tiny basement with an Xbox console.

  34. 34
    catclub says:

    @JanieM: Swallowtail hawks seem to have taken up residence around here.

  35. 35
    NotMax says:

    Toss it. It was the pre-flight birds’ toilet and trash can.

  36. 36
    JanieM says:


    Swallowtail hawks seem to have taken up residence around here

    I’ve never seen one of those — from the bird book, it looks like they don’t hang out anywhere near this far north (Maine). The look like they’d be fun to watch, too. Are you somewhere in the South?

  37. 37
    Beatrice says:

    Were these the robins? Robins will often raise a second brood in the same nest.

  38. 38
    debit says:

    @BGinCHI: Oh, House Finch, my House Finch?

  39. 39
    Ohio Mom says:

    @JanieM: Where do you live that the swallows come to visit?

  40. 40
    JanieM says:

    @Ohio Mom: Central Maine.

    ETA: Rural central Maine.

  41. 41
    BGinCHI says:

    @debit: I sing the damaged body electric.

  42. 42
    laura says:

    If you take the nest down, you’ll leave them no alternative but to build a nest in your beard.

  43. 43
    BGinCHI says:

    @laura: Ample food supply, at least.

  44. 44
    rikyrah says:

    Awe😢, they are gone.
    Have we convinced you to set up a camera so that we can watch them😌

  45. 45
    WaterGirl says:

    @BGinCHI: I just woke up on the couch after falling asleep at 7:30 (I got up at 4:30 this morning!) and now I’m on my way to bed, but I just have to say how glad I am to see your nym, even though the thread is dead. It seems like forever since I’ve seen you here.

  46. 46
    BGinCHI says:

    @WaterGirl: Lurking, life too busy, etc.

    Good to hear from you!

    Hope all is well in your world.

  47. 47
    wasabi gasp says:

    On a small table in the hall for your fob.

  48. 48
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    clean up so new tenants will move in.

Comments are closed.