Birds raising young

Chickadee babies ©Janet Allen
Chickadee babies

We try to provide everything birds need to raise their young including:

Natural nesting places

Robin leaving nest ©Janet AllenRobin leaving nest in our arborvitae

Not every bird nests in cavities (and therefore not in nestboxes, either).

Many birds build nests in trees or in shrubs. Some even build their nests in grasses or on the ground, but we've never had any of those in our yard.

Interestingly, some research shows that nests built in non-native bushes have a higher predation rate. Yet another reason we focus on native plantings.

Nest in arborvitae ©Janet AllenAfter the babies fledged, we checked out the nest

The robin in the photo built its nest in one of the arborvitaes along our driveway. If we hadn't seen her leaving and entering this area of the shrub we never would have suspected the nest was there.

After the nestlings fledged, we inspected the nest. It was indeed very well-hidden!

Robins have fairly frequently nested in our arborvitaes.

Robin nest in our apple tree ©Janet AllenRobin nest in our apple tree

This robin nested in our apple tree right above our rain barrels. We're at the rain barrels frequently, so I guess she doesn't mind not having complete privacy, though she was eyeing me warily as I tried to take some photos of the nest.

Gray dogwood ©Janet AllenGray dogwood

Patches of native shrubs, like these gray dogwoods outside our fence, are good areas for birds to nest in, too. The catbirds have raised young somewhere out back, either in these shrubs or in the evergreens next to the back fence.

These dogwoods are a favorite place for birds to hang out in any case.

A future snag

Dying sugar maple ©Janet AllenOur unhealthy sugar maple (note declining leaf canopy), a future snag

One of the best things we could provide for raising young is a dead tree. Nestboxes are necessary only because our society has such an aversion to keeping dead trees.

We're not lucky enough to have a dead tree ourselves, but when our sugar maple finally dies, we'll cut it off at a height where safety isn't an issue and wait for the birds.

Baby bird rescue

Cedar waxwing baby ©Janet Allen
Cedar waxwing baby looking upward toward the top of the tree where its parent was perching

What to do when a seemingly helpless baby bird is found?

I had this dilemma when a neighbor brought me this baby bird that she found sitting on the sidewalk all by itself. It certainly wasn't at a stage when it could take care of itself, but could we do any better?

We quickly did some research and it was as I expected: it's best to put the baby back where it was and hope that the parents will find it and take care of it (before a cat does).

One of reasons for doing so was especially interesting: Even if we were able to raise it successfully to adulthood, we wouldn't be able to teach it the skills it needs to survive as a bird. We underestimate the importance of bird parenting!

Cedar waxwing and nest ©Janet Allen
Cedar waxwing and nest (in the top branches)

We took this baby back up the street and put it in a nearby evergreen tree — complete with an adult cedar waxwing at the top! It appeared that the nest was right up there at the top, too.

I hope they were reunited and all turned out well, but I'm confident that putting it back on the tree was indeed the wisest choice. (But I fervently wish people would keep their cats inside!)