About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, June 29, 2015

What birds do if their eggs are destroyed

We live in Houghton Lake Michigan and have a have a Blue Spruce right by our deck and have seen two tiny birds make a nest in the top area of the Spruce. They have a red top on their head, brownish body. We have been chasing away Blue Jays, and other birds which try to get at the nest.

Once a strange bird flew out of the nest we did not see it come back. We now wonder if these tiny birds nesting in the Spruce had taken it upon themselves to care for a nest of eggs which were not their own eggs.

We are really confused as to what is going on with these tiny birds. They are really busy flying back and forth. Do these birds, what we think are Finch’s, lay more eggs if something happens to their first laying of eggs in their nest?

How do you keep other birds from the nest? Do birds take over other bird’s nests, and do they relay eggs if something happens to their first laying of eggs?? Thank you, John

House Finches Carpodacus mexicanus are a familiar sight in my mid-Michigan yard. These 6″, talkative little birds get their name from their habit of hanging around houses. They build their nests in the hanging baskets, wreaths, or pine trees. Their nest is usually a small messy cup made of twigs, grasses, plant fibers, leaves, rootlets, hairs, string and wool, lichens.

They are a brown bird with slight white wing bands and the males have a red head and rump with a pink chest that has brown streaking. The amount of red the male finch has can vary depending on the amount of carotenoid pigments consumed in its food during molt. Their cheery warble or a variety of chirps is a constant around my bird feeders.

If they have a predator destroy their eggs or young in the nest, they can either lay more eggs or start over in a new location. If they were successful in that location once before they may just re-nest there again. A pair may lay as many as 6 clutches during one breeding season, though typically no more than three of these clutches will result in fledglings.

The young are incubated and brooded in the nest by females only for about 2 weeks and then once hatched, the young stay in their nest for about 2 more weeks. Males bring food to the female but do not participate in direct care of the young until a few days after hatching, when both parents begin an intensive period of feeding the nestlings. After the chicks leave the nest, the male typically continues to feed the chicks while the female begins building the nest for the next brood.

House Finches are not territorial. In fact, they often nest in close association, and commonly occur in small groups or flocks. These groups help them avoid predators primarily through vigilance. Nest predators include jays, grackles, crows, chipmunks, squirrels, skunks, snakes, raccoons, and household cats.

The strange bird that flew out of the nest could have been a Brown-headed Cowbird. They do not build their own nest – Instead they lay one egg in several nests and let other birds foster their young. This would not have been a good choice for the cowbird because finches are mainly vegetarian and the survival rate of young cowbirds to adulthood in House Finches nests is zero. Cowbirds need more bugs and less of the plant matter that makes up the finches’ diet to survive and thrive.

I am glad you are enjoying your birds. Hopefully a new young brood of finches will soon visit you to thank you with a song for your vigilance in protecting the family.

Related Articles:
- House Finches: Those Year-round Red Heads http://bit.ly/oOPJYR
- Where do you place finch feeders? http://bit.ly/qr78Dd
- How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/rT5Hfj
- Why male and females are a different color http://bit.ly/ueILUf
- Remove all winter wreaths before finches begin nesting in them http://goo.gl/OeyOS

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