Building a Replacement Nest

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Found a baby bird, but can’t find it’s nest? Making a new nest from a basket, bucket, or plastic food containers is easy. Just follow the steps below and your replacement nest will have fallen baby birds back in the trees where they belong in no time! Remember, picking up a baby bird will not cause the parents to reject the baby because of your human scent. Most birds actually have a very poor sense of smell.Before deciding to re-nest a baby bird, make sure it’s not a fledgling. Fledglings have at least some of their flight feathers in and are learning how to fly. You’ll often see them hoping around on the ground or in bushes while their parents are watching over them closely. Unless the fledgling is in immediate danger, it does not have to be re-nested. For more help in identifying the stages of development of young birds, CLICK HERE

Step 1: Gather your supplies.

To make a replacement nest you will need:
1 Basket/bucket/plastic food container: Should be 8-10” in diameter and at least 6” deep.
(hanging plant holders also work well for this sort of a thing)
1 Pair of scissors and/or single-hole puncher.
Twine or durable string.
Dry grass, leaves, or straw.

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Step 2: Cutting four holes.

Cut four holes near the rim of the container being used as the nest. If you’re using a basket with handles, then creating these holes isn’t necessary. Try to spread these cuts out as evenly as possible in order to create a more stable nest.

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Step 3: Add drainage holes.

Cut some additional holes in the bottom of the container to allow for drainage of moisture. Woven baskets usually don’t need these drainage cuts.

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Step 4: Loop the twine.

Loop the twine through the holes near the rim and secure it in place with a knot. We recommend connecting holes that are opposite one another so that an X pattern is created by the twine. Make sure there is some slack in the twine. If you’re using a basket with handles, then skip this step. This won’t always work. If the tree is moderate in size, then you won’t be able to get the loops over the terminal end of a branch because it’ll be too high. Tie only one end of the two strings to the container and wait until you can loop the strings over the branch (step 6) to tie the other ends to the container.

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Step 5: Add some cushioning.

Fill the replacement nest with dry grass, straw, or leaf matter, and push down in the center of this filling to create a depression in which you’ll place the baby bird. The replacement nest is now ready!

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Step 6: Secure the new nest to a tree.

Once constructed, you want to attach the new nest to the tree that the baby bird (likely) came from. We recommend using twine and other materials to attach the nest to the tree that won’t harm the tree. Just make sure that the new nest is placed away from the tree’s trunk (to avoid cats and other predators), between six to eight feet off the ground (unless branches aren’t found at that height), and underneath other branches/leaves (protection from the elements).

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Step 7: Double check the nest.

Make sure to double check that the nest is securely fastened to the branch before moving on to the next step.

Step 8: Place the bird in the nest.

After double checking the stability of the replacement nest, you may place the baby bird inside of the new nest. If possible, try to monitor the new nest to see if the parents return and continue caring for the baby. If the parents do not return within a day of replacement, then call your local wildlife rehabilitator for further assistance. If the parents do return to the replacement nest, then everything is good to go.

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Step 9: Give yourself a high-five!

Congratulations! You’re an awesome bird rescuer, and we at the Bird Center thank you for helping us to Keep Them Flying! Birds that are raised wild by their parents are significantly more likely to survive into adulthood.

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There are also a couple of alternatives that can be used, including hanging plant baskets and woven baskets.


Ian Martin, Education Coordinator, 2016

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