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.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Do I leave dummy nests alone?

I have two bluebird boxes on my property. There have been lots of bluebirds around checking out both houses. It appears that they (or some bird) has built a dummy nest in one of the boxes. And some have been checking out the other box every day but have not started a nest it. Chickadees are now also checking out the one house. Why haven't the bluebirds claimed the empty box?

Eastern Bluebird
Also, should I remove the dummy nest from the second box to allow another pair to possibly nest? Or should I leave it to Mother Nature?
I’m not sure where you live but in Michigan it's a little early for bluebird nesting. The box with a nest was probably claimed by an experienced, older pair that knows the area well and knows where all the food sources are located. But they also know that it is too early to start incubating eggs.

If eggs hatch before your area can supply enough food, the babies might starve. I would leave all the bird nests alone.
Black-capped Chickadee

Once the conditions are right and the best house is chosen, songbirds like bluebirds will finish building their nest and begin egg laying. They don't start sitting on the nest immediately. The bird will begin to incubate the eggs after her clutch is complete. That way the babies are born on the same day and there isn’t competition between older and younger siblings.

Your bluebirds are probably taking advantage of their last moments of freedom before confinement to the nest and are just waiting for the right conditions before they begin nesting.

Eastern Bluebirds build a neat, woven cup-shaped nest made mainly from fine grass or pine needles inside old woodpecker nests or bird houses.

Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadees build nests in bird houses with a moss base, topped with animal fur or cottony plant fibers.

Tree Swallows build cup-shaped nests of grass or pine needles, usually lined with lots of fluffy feathers to cover the eggs inside bird houses.

House Wrens are famous for building dummy nests to keep other males away. They also build several starter stick constructions to present to females. The female then chooses which nest is best and takes over building the nest with cottony spider cocoons, fine fibers and downy feathers.
House Wren

The other birds checking out the boxes are probably newly mated and trying out different nesting sites. They flit about from sight to sight in the early spring looking for the best nest.

I’m glad you are having such success. Just be a little patient and let nature take its course.

Thanks for your advice. Your nudge to be patient was very useful (working on that in many areas of my life :)) The bluebirds are completing their nest……they were just taking their time with it.

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