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Do Birds Actually Reuse Their Birdhouses and Nesting Spots? Here’s the Answer

Do Birds Actually Reuse Their Birdhouses and Nesting Spots? Here’s the Answer

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The amount of diversity present in birds is outstanding. Even closely related species exhibit different behaviors. Some prefer to build nests in chambers, while others set up their nests in trees.

If you’re a nature enthusiast who likes watching birds in your garden, you may wonder if they mind settling in old nests.

So, do birds reuse birdhouses?

This article digs deep to find an answer and guide you on how to attract different types of nesting birds.

Do Birds Reuse Birdhouses?

Reusing birdhouses depends on the species. Most small birds like swifts are loyal to their nesting site and return to the same place each year.

Some species even build on old nests, like pigeons. They can reuse the same nest for up to four years.

While some birds don’t typically return to the same nest site season after season, they still can reuse old nesting sites. They recognize previous successful breeding locations while navigating.

However, they will not reuse an old site if they’ve failed to reproduce in it because of predators or other obstacles.

Do Birds Reuse Old Nests?

Generally, no. Bird nests—especially those in trees—aren’t sturdy enough to survive more than one breeding season.

Even birds that attempt more than one clutch of eggs per season, like robins, build different nests for each clutch.

However, species that choose enclosed spaces to build their nests, such as bluebirds or barn swallows, are likely to visit the nest again for new broods.

Also, big predatory birds like old world vultures reuse old nests and repair them each season.

They set up their nests on high cliffs or caves to shield the nests from bad weather conditions. If their breeding season goes successful, vultures can use the same nest every year.

Will Birds Use Another Bird’s Nest?

Yes, some bird species use abandoned nests either temporarily for shelter or for laying eggs. Even if they can’t occupy old ones, they may recycle them to build their own.

Interestingly, some species of cuckoos and cowbirds are evil masterminds in the animal kingdom. They don’t build their own homes; instead, they lay eggs in other birds’ nesting spots.

What’s more, they rely on other parents to take care of their offspring. This act of laying eggs in other birds’ nests till it hatches is known as brood parasitism.

So how do cuckoos and cowbirds trick other birds into fostering their broods?

They mimic the shape of the host’s eggs, tricking them into believing the parasite eggs are their own.

They may also remove one or more host eggs to maintain the same number of eggs in the nest. Host birds take care of the eggs until they hatch and raise the young for them.

When Do Birds Build Nests in Birdhouses?

The breeding season of birds differs according to the species and their habitat. Generally, birds start nesting from spring until summer or when the climate is warmer.

Although it’s not common, some owls start nesting at the end of winter.

However, nesting and laying eggs isn’t the only reason birds stay in birdhouses. Some cavity-nesters, such as woodpeckers, use birdhouses as shelters and can stay during the winter.

How Often Should You Clean Out Birdhouses?

You should clean birdhouses at least once a year because the nests can attract ants, lice, mites, and mice.

It’s even better to clean out birdhouses after the baby birds have fledged (this can take ten days to a month, depending on the species.)

Unfortunately, cleaning birdhouses after each brood may not be accessible. If you’re hosting species that lay multiple clutches of eggs, like bluebirds, they can stay all year round.

You don’t want to disturb or scare the little ones away. So it’s better to clean the birdhouse after the last brood has fledged, which is usually by the end of summer.

Keeping your nest clean will attract early nesters like owls during the winter.

How Can You Clean Birdhouses?

Keeping birdhouses clean isn’t only crucial to attract nesting birds, but it also prevents the spreading of diseases to young hatchlings.

Before cleaning the birdhouse, make sure to wear protective gloves and avoid any skin contact. Nests are loaded with bacteria and yeasts that can lead to severe illnesses in humans.

Here’s how you can refresh your birdhouse between guests:

  1. Remove the old nest using a scraping tool to remove any sticky droppings
  2. Run water several times over the nest
  3. Use a low concentrated bleach solution and start scrubbing
  4. Rinse well with clean water to ensure there aren’t any harmful chemicals left
  5. Let the birdhouse dry in the air before hanging it back

What Type of Nesting Birds Are Attracted to Birdhouses?

Birds flying around in your backyard don’t only make a beautiful scene. They also reduce unwanted insects and rodents.

Usually, cavity nesters—birds that set up their nests in chambers—will inhibit birdhouses. Cavity nesters include bluebirds, chickadees, purple martins, wrens, tree swallows, house sparrows, and woodpeckers.

It’s important to consider a couple of things if you want different nesting birds visiting your yard.

Provide a Variety of Birdhouses

Although most cavity nesters are small birds, they differ in size. Birds like woodpeckers will need bigger entrance holes than other birds.

You should offer several birdhouses in your yard to attract different bird species.

Know That Birds Can Be Friends or Enemies

While most birds fight over nests, some species can coexist in peace. For instance, you can neighbor bluebirds and tree swallows without worrying about them fighting.

In contrast, some species, like the house sparrows, are aggressive. They may remove eggs from other nests and claim the site as their own.

Final Thoughts

Little chippers bring joy wherever they go.

You may have noticed a few taking over the birdhouses in your yard and wondered: Do birds reuse birdhouses?

Reusing an old nesting site varies according to species. Yet, generally, birds return to the same nesting place if they’ve had a successful breeding season.

Just make sure to keep birdhouses clean to continue attracting different nesting birds!


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