Do Baby Birds Come Back To The Nest? – Learn the answer and more

Most of us have found a bird’s nest at some point in our lives. Sometimes they have tiny eggs inside, sometimes even baby birds, but mostly they will be empty nests. So where are the baby birds and do they come back to the nest?

Baby birds do not come back to the nest once they have fledged. Most birds are cared for by their parents for a short period of time after leaving the nest until they are able to fend for themselves. A baby bird’s parents will generally abandon the nest once their chicks have fledged.

There are some birds that will return to their nesting area to roost at night. Owls and Woodpeckers will shelter in the tree cavity where they laid their brood however, they also have various other roosts in their territory. Read on to discover more incredible facts about bird nests and nesting.

Find out how long birds stay in the nest in this post here on my site.

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What Happens To Baby Birds When They Leave The Nest?

When they leave the nest, most baby birds are cared for by their parents. Still developing, they cannot fly well or find food for themselves. They are vulnerable to predators during this stage which can be several weeks to several months. In most species, nearly half of all young perish in their first year.

The amount of time it takes a young bird to mature varies from species to species. Smaller birds will mature faster than larger birds, some within 10 days to 2 weeks. This may be because their lifespan is shorter and they need to reach sexual maturity faster.

Some chicks, like those of the Australian Brush Turkey, are independent from the moment they leave the nest. They can walk, run and even fly and do not rely on their parents at all.

a Brush Turkey walking on a sandy track
Brush Turkey – image by Barry Callister Photography.

The majority of birds however are what is called Altricial. These in fact make up almost half of all birds on the planet. The chicks of altricial birds are born featherless and blind and completely helpless. These are the very vocal, alien-looking things we see in nests, screeching loudly at their parents for food.

a mother bird feeding her chicks in the nest
Mother bird feeding chicks – image by xomato from Getty Images.

Altricial chicks require help from their parents even after leaving the nest.

Do Baby Birds Find Their Way Back To The Nest?

Baby birds do not find their way back to the nest and in fact, don’t need to. Once they leave the nest they do not return to it. Time on the ground helps to develop wing and leg strength. If you find a baby bird on the ground, leave it alone. The mother is likely nearby and will help it once you leave.

a baby Barn Swallow sitting on the ground
Baby Barn Swallow on the ground – image by driftlessstudio from Getty Images.

Finding a baby bird struggling on the ground brings out the maternal instincts in the best of us. Our natural reaction is to want to help it but it really is best to leave it alone. Its parents are likely nearby and will come to its aid once you have left the area.

If you put a chick back into the nest, it will most likely just jump right out again. They have reached the stage where they no longer need to be in the nest.

a chick begging for food in a nest

They require some time on the ground moving and flapping around to develop the strength they require in their legs and wings in order to fly effectively.

Even if the bird you find is featherless and appears to be too young to have left the nest, it’s possible that it might have been ejected from the nest by its parents for some reason.

a dead chick lying on the ground
A chick that has perished after falling from its nest – image by Sarah2 from Canva.

Find out which bird lives the longest in this article here on my site.

It seems cruel to us but some animals reject their young if they have certain birth defects or are simply not strong enough to compete for food with their brothers and sisters. It could also be possible that the young bird has fallen out of the nest during an attack by a predator.

If You Find A Baby Bird

In these cases, it is best to call a wildlife rescue or someone who is qualified to look after baby birds. If you don’t know how to take care of a baby bird, please don’t try. Leave it to the professionals.

USAAnimal Help
AustraliaWildlife Rescue
1300 596 457
CanadaWildlife Rescue
(604) 526-7275
UKWildlife Aid
01372 360404

For a state-by-state listing of wildlife rehabilitators in the US, try this page from the Human Society of the United States.

If you are from a country not listed in the table above, simply Google “wildlife rescue” or “animal rescue” to get information about an organization near you.

Can You Touch Baby Birds?

As a general rule, it is best not to touch baby birds. Contrary to popular belief, the parents will not abandon them if you do touch them but it is best to leave them alone unless you absolutely have to pick them up. Birds will most likely abandon their nests if touched during nesting or egg-laying.

a hand holding two chicks with a crossed out red circle over the top
It is best NOT to touch baby birds unless absolutely necessary – image by changephoto from Getty Images.

I know that it is hard to resist the instinct to help baby birds that have fallen from the nest. They look so completely helpless and so cute that we just have to intervene and try to make things right.

Remember that nature has devised the best way for birds to breed and continue to exist and it has worked for millions of years. The fact that some birds die while others get to live on is cruel and hard for us to understand however it is the natural way of things.

a Silvereye bird feeding its chick
Silvereye feeding its chick – image by Mathew Bocian from Getty Images.

Nature has somehow found a way to balance the populations of species by ensuring that some survive and some do not. If we continually interfere with these natural laws, we can upset the equilibrium of the environment. It is best to step back and let nature take its course.

If you are not the type of person who can leave well alone and you simply have to help, then please do so in the right way. Make sure you call professional help if you do not know how to care for birds. You will be doing more harm than good if you don’t know what you are doing.

Refer back to the table above for wildlife rescuers in your country.

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Barry Callister

Barry is a bird photographer and bird watcher with over 7 years of experience. He runs his own YouTube channel about photography and promotes his nature photography on his personal website

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