|A mourning dove and its nestling on a window ledge in Mission Viejo. Photo by J.J. Meyer|
Summer is a busy time for birds. Many species are still nesting and raising their families.
Certain bird behaviors can be clues of a nest nearby. When birds are in the nest-building phase, you might see them gathering materials, such as twigs and dried grasses. You might witness them flying in and out of a particular spot in a bush or tree, often perching nearby first to watch for predators. The sound of noisy nestlings begging to be fed can also point to a nest.
So now that you’ve spotted it, what should you do?
“Keep your distance, use binoculars,” said Nancy Kenyon, local Sea and Sage Audubon chapter board member and newsletter editor. When birds are nesting near your house, the key is to minimize the disturbance, she said.
“The parents won’t feed the babies if you’re around. You’re keeping them from the nest.”
Being in close proximity to a nest can also tip predators to its location.
“Don’t draw any attention to it,” Kenyon said. “We have problems at the marsh with some photographers. They want to get that close shot of a nest, but when they leave, the crows come in and rob it.”
Depending upon the species, some birds will let you know when you’ve ventured too close. Some parents produce alarm calls, signaling to their young to remain quiet.
Killdeer, a shorebird found at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine, display a broken-wing performance to lead predators away from their nest. “At first you may wonder what’s wrong with that poor bird, but it’s just an act to get a predator to follow it,” Kenyon said.
Other birds take a more direct approach to defending their nests.
“Brewer’s blackbirds are nesting in various shopping centers in Irvine now,” she said. “If you get too close, they will attack you.”
Raptors, such as owls and hawks, are particularly known for displaying aggressive behavior when defending their nests against perceived threats.
A nesting hawk at the Orange Tree Golf Club in Orlando, Florida, prompted course officials to post caution signs earlier this year. Members carried umbrellas and altered their walking paths to avoid getting struck in the head with sharp talons.
A barred owl with a nasty disposition earned the name of “Owlcapone” for its repeated attacks on joggers in a Salem, Oregon, park two years ago. Several people received cuts and scrapes on their heads from the talons of the large owl.
Even hummingbirds are known to fly directly at the face of a person who gets too close to its nest.
Kenyon suggests keeping dogs and cats indoors during the nesting period and delaying tree trimming until September. Ask gardeners to avoid the area of an active nest. She also recommends leaving nests in place for the duration of the breeding season, since some species will reuse a previous nest.
Many birds return to the same area to nest year after year.