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Breeding birds, nests, eggs and songs

When is it safe to cut your hedge? How long does it take baby birds to fledge? Your bird breeding questions are answered by our team of experts.

Our landlord is re-roofing the buildings on our street, how do I preserve swift nesting sites? We don't get as many swifts as we used to.

Swifts are amazing birds providing a fantastic display during the summer months. Being unable to walk or even stand. They really only leave the skies to breed, being true masters of the air. More...

When is it safe to walk the dog in a field where birds might be nesting?

A nearby field is great for dog walking but I am concerned I will disturb any ground nesting birds. What time of year is safe to walk there? More...

Do wild birds live in nests all year, or only when raising their young?

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Do 'our' swallows breed in South Africa?

When swallows arrive in their winter quarters, they spend most of their time feeding and probably resting. More...

Is it common for different birds to reuse the same nest in one year?

Both blackbirds and robins have several lots of young each year. If they build fresh nests each time that's a great deal of hard work. More...

Do blue tits hiss?

If you heard hissing from a nestbox, it's most likely that the sound is coming from the female blue tit defending her brood. More...

How often do great spotted woodpeckers eat other birds' chicks?

The great spotted woodpecker is an omnivore which eats a mixture of insects and seeds (mainly conifer). But they'll also take eggs and even young birds from nest holes and boxes. More...

When can I move a starling nest from my loft?

Only when you are certain that a nest is no longer in use, can it be removed, as active nests are fully protected by law. More...

We have a swifts' nest up in the gable end of our house. Half the nest broke and fell to the floor. Should I remove the rest or will the swifts rebuild it?

I think it is best if you leave the remains of the nest where they are, and let the birds themselves do whatever DIY work they feel appropriate. We have had a very dry spring, and when the birds return from their migration, they will have a hard job finding mud to rebuild their nest. More...

Is it too early to expect the dawn chorus? At 5 am today I could distinctly hear five birds, rather than a joyful cacophany.

Birds are certainly having a rehearsal at the moment and the 'joyful cacophany' is merely waiting in the wings. Some birds will have been singing for several weeks with blackbirds and robins being joined by song thrushes as they defend territory and attract mates. More...

How do birds know when it is time to build a nest?

There are lots of factors which trigger the start of birds' breeding seasons. Like most vertebrates, hormones such as prolactin control changes inside the birds. More...

Do crows regurgitate food to feed their chicks? Would the extinct Hawaiian crow also have done it?

Yes, crows are one of the many birds that will regurgitate food for their chicks. More...

Why do birds have to sit on their eggs and for how long?

Birds have to sit on their eggs to keep them warm. It's a bit like baking a cake - the warmth from the parent bird makes sure that the chicks inside develop properly. This is called 'incubation'. More...

Do birds reuse old nests from year to year?

Do birds reuse old nests from year to year? More...

Do blue tits get food for their young at a distance from their nest?

Do blue tits get food for their young at a distance from their nest? They seem to ignore our garden and search elsewhere. More...

Will the house martins have left their nests by the time our apartments are due to be decorated?

Our apartment blocks are due to be redecorated starting 5 July and at present there are seven house martin nests under the eaves. Should the babies have fledged by then and how can we prevent these birds from nesting under the eaves again? More...

We have six young robins, but a female blackbird has taken to sitting with them. Is this normal?

We have robins nesting in a wall mounted flower pot - six eggs all hatched and growing well. However a female blackbird has taken to sitting with the young robins - Is this normal? I have pictures. The robin parents sit nearby with food for the young but cannot approach the nest with the blackbird sitting there. More...

Is it right that young starlings return to the nest they fledged from to breed themselves?

In the eaves of our house we have a starlings nest every year. We were told by an SSPCA officer that the young will return to the nest they fledged from to breed themselves. Is that correct? What if more than one starling returns to the nest? More...

We have a very strange looking nest in our loft. It almost looks like plastic. What can it be?

I think you can rule a bird out of the list of suspects. The common wasp frequently builds its nest in roof cavities as well as underground burrows and tree cavities. More...

Do black and white swans interbreed?

Do black and white swans interbreed? More...

Where I work, there are herring gulls nesting on the roof. The employer had got men to remove the eggs and kick apart the nests. Is this legal?

Where I work there are herring gull nesting on the roof. The employer had got men to remove the eggs and kick apart the nests. Is this legal? The birds are really distressed. More...

Would the earwigs in my nestbox deter birds from nesting in it?

Is there anything we can use to deter earwigs from going in our nestboxes which will not deter the birds from nesting? If not, would the earwigs stop the birds from nesting in them? More...

I have a nestbox for blue tits. Could I put up one for robins nearby, or will they attack each other?

I have already got a nest box for blue tits which they used last year. Could I put up one for robins nearby, or will they attack each other? More...

What percentage of birds don't manage to find a mate?

What percentage of birds don't manage to find a mate? What do they do instead of nesting? More...

Are there birds in Britain that bury their eggs?

Are there birds in britain that bury their eggs? My mum found one buried in one of her plant pots. A week later it was gone! More...

Do hen harriers start incubating from the first egg laid?

Do hen harriers start incubating from the first egg laid? More...

Would a male robin feed its mate, or could it be a youngster from an early brood?

I saw a robin feeding another robin, but it was too well advanced to be a baby at this time of year. Would the male feed it's mate, or could it be a bird from a very early brood? I do have a nest in the garden, but can't see in it. More...

Why are bird eggs different colours?

Why are bird eggs different colours? More...

Is it usual for 26 eggs to be in the nest of a mallard?

Last week, I observed a mallard trying to brood a nest overflowing with eggs on a precarious ledge which was part of the bridge over the River Wygyr in Cemaes Bay, Anglesey. As I watched, three eggs slipped down the slope. When she flew off I was able to count the eggs. There were, to my amazement, 26 eggs in or near the nest. Do I assume that, perhaps, two birds had laid in the same nest, or is this an unusual but not unknown occurrence ? More...

Do woodpeckers try to enlarge nesting box holes without any intention of using them?

Do woodpeckers try to enlarge nesting box holes without any intention of using them? More...

Can all birds regurgitate food when feeding their young?

Can all birds regurgitate food when feeding their young and if they can, why do some birds not do it? More...

Can I cut down a tree that blackbirds have started nesting in?

We have a conifer tree in our garden which I am planning on cutting down as we are having a new conservatory. A pair of blackbirds have started to build a nest in the tree this week. How long will it take for them to finish the nest, lay eggs, hatch and for the youngsters to fly the nest. In other words when can I safely start to chop down the tree? More...

Do starlings nest in boxes?

Do starlings nest in boxes? I have seen what looks like a starling coming out of a box in a neigbour's garden More...

Do the various species of birds nest at specified heights from ground level?

Even closely-related species of bird nest at different heights above ground level. More...

Do skylarks sing at night or maybe before the sun rises?

Do skylarks sing at night or maybe before the sun rises? More...

I have a blackbird nest in my wildly overgrown hedge. The babies have hatched, but how do I know if this is the blackbirds' first brood?

I have a blackbird nest in my wildly overgrown hedge. The babies have hatched, but how do I know if this is the blackbirds' first brood? I noticed somebody asked in March. Is it likely, in June, this will be their last? I am desperate to cut the hedge! More...

Is it possible for two nestboxes that are close together to be occupied by blue tits?

Last year we had blue tits nesting on a silver birch at the top of our garden. Is it possible to place another nesting box in the near vicinity of the other box or are the blue tits territorial and as such, not tolerant of other nesting tits? More...

Is a peregrine likely to use the same nesting spot every year?

Is a peregrine likely to use the same nesting spot every year? I've been watch a pair on a disused chimney stack for over a year. More...

When can I paint my house without affecting the house martins nesting there?

I have several house martin nests on my house and want to be absolutely sure that I will do no harm when I repaint my house as the nests will have to be removed. Around what month/date will it be safe to proceed? More...

Is there an easy way to stop starlings nesting in our loft and how much damage would they do if they were left to get on with it?

We have starlings nesting in our loft, is there an easy way to stop them from nesting and also how much damage would they do if they were left to get on with it? More...

If I put up three nestboxes in my garden, will they all be occupied?

I have a garden of approximately 20m x 15m. If I put up a selection of three nestboxes catering for a robin, blue tit and great tit, would only one box be occupied because of territorial disputes, or can territories for these birds overlap? More...

We can hear birds singing at night (2am) in trees adjacent to the house in mid-December. Why?

We can hear birds singing at night (2am) in trees adjacent to the house in mid-December. Why? We've never heard this before. More...

Clearing my asparagus beds I came across a half-buried, white, chicken-sized egg. How did it get there?

The size and colour of this egg suggests that it was laid by a duck, most likely a mallard More...

I have a chaffinch in my garden that is driving me absolutely nuts! It is calling non-stop and it goes on hour after hour, from dawn until dark. Why? And when can I expect it to stop?

This repetitive and monotonous song is the chaffinch 'rain' call, and although it is far from the most melodic part of this bird's repertoire, some consider it to foretell rain, though this is highly disputable. More...

Is there a type of vent that can be fitted into our garage roof to give swallows access? We've had to leave the door or window open for each or the last 3 summers?

Swallows choose to nest inside buildings that have open access so barns, stables, sheds, car ports and even porches all provide suitable protection for their fragile mud nests. More...

We have a birds nest in the garden constructed from moss and lined soley with black down feathers, with an entry hole at the top near to the branch. What is it?

The nest you describe belongs to a long-tailed tit. Such a privilege to have them nesting in your garden, and such a delight to be able to see a nest close-up! More...

Do blackbirds mimic human whistling?

Our neighbour whistles when he loads his van in the morning and a blackbird seems to be whistling the same tune, so we nicknamed him Dave after his name sake... More...

What is the average length of time of the dawn chorus and is there a UK record for the earliest chorus?

This is a very 'timely' enquiry, as we are receiving lots of comments about the dawn chorus. It seemed to start early this year as the birds began their breeding activities. Perhaps the relatively mild winter weather and an early spring, has helped. More...