Texas Living

When Is It Safe to Move a Bird’s Nest?

By Jillian Kring 4.1.21

Texas is home to more than 600 species of birds, each one as unique as the last. But if you discover a bird’s nest in your home’s gutter, chimney, windowsill, or in another inconvenient location, what should you do? You may be tempted to move the nest yourself, but that can cause more harm than you might realize. Birds will often abandon their nests, eggs, and even their hatchlings if they are moved or disturbed. These nests can also carry diseases that are dangerous for humans.

Here’s a guide to when it’s safe to move a bird’s nest and what you can do when it’s not.

Is It Legal to Move a Bird’s Nest?

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 protects more than 800 species of birds — and nearly every bird that you will see in Texas, making it illegal to tamper with or destroy a nest occupied by adults or eggs. The only species of birds that are not protected by state and federal law are those considered invasive, such as European starlings, English sparrows, and feral pigeons.

Species such as grackles, crows, and magpies tend to pose public health risks and create “nuisances” — they may not be killed, but they can be “controlled” without a permit. Besides this short list, however, every species of bird that migrates through or is indigenous to Texas is legally protected.

How to Tell if a Nest Is Abandoned

While it is safe to discard an abandoned nest, regardless of species, it can be difficult to determine if a nest is, in fact, abandoned. The adult bird could be searching for food and, in certain situations, the incubating adult may lay eggs, leave, and return later to continue incubation.

Even when you’re simply observing the nest to determine abandonment or look for eggs, take special care. Interferences, disturbances, and even loitering by humans may cause an incubating adult to abandon an active nest, eggs, or hatchlings. You can read more about nest abandonment and safe bird-watching here.

If the nest is clearly uninhabited after a week or two of monitoring, you may discard the abandoned remains. If you do attempt to move a bird’s nest, wear gloves and take the appropriate sanitary precautions to prevent the potential spread of disease.

Bye-Bye, Birdie!

Sometimes, the location of a nest poses a risk to your family, your home, or the birds, such as when it has been built in a chimney, a rain gutter, or a garage. In these cases, contact a wildlife rehabilitator. These are trained professionals who know how to safely relocate nests and care for abandoned chicks.

If you want your home to be a hospitable environment for feathered guests (but don’t want them lodging in your gutters), try building one of these DIY bird feeders.

© 2021 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance