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Barger, N. R. (ed.) / The passenger pigeon
Volume XI, Number 2 (April 1949)

Cross, Mrs. Sterling H.
Moving bird nests successfully,   p. 60 PDF (378.8 KB)

Page 60

My husband, who is a foreman on a road construction crew for the
Columbia County Highway Commission, has had to either destroy or
move two bird nests, which were in the way of constructing a road.
Many people believe that a bird's nest must never be touched or the
parent birds will desert the eggs or young whichever the case may be.
In my husband's case this was not so.
This is what happened: Sterle (my husband) was directing the
stripping of a gravel pit using heavy tractors and scrapers to remove
the sod. He noticed a pair of field sparrows going to and from a certain
spot which would soon be in line for scraping the soil from the pit.
Upon investigation he discovered a nest containing three baby field
sparrows still in the downy stage. Taking a spade and selecting a spot
a safe distance from the pit he dug out a round piece of sod approxi-
inately a foot in diameter. Then going slowly to the nest he dug a
like piece of sod containing the nest. This he carried very slowly and in
plain sight of the parent birds, who were flying frantically around, to the
first hole. Then slowly moved back to the pit here he could watch
to see if the birds would find and accept the nest in its new location.
At first the birds swooped near the old location then back to the new
place as if trying to realize what had happened to the nest and their
three young. After about a half hour Sterle noticed one parent pick
tip an insect or worm and circle over the new location a few times.
Then it dropped down and fed the young birds. After that, much to his
relief and satisfaction both birds accepted the new home and in due
time they reared their young to maturity.
The second instance was a robin who had a nest with four eggs,
which she was incubating. The nest was in a crotch of a tree that stood
in the right-of-way on a county road, and would have to be taken out.
Sterle selected a tree about fifteen feet away, near a fence, which had a
crotch about the same height from the ground as the nest was in the
tree where the robin was setting. As he neared the nest the robin flew
out and scolded continuously only a few feet away from him. Sterle
carefully and very slowly removed the nest, and again holding the nest
in plain sight as with the field sparrows, he walked over to the tree
previously selected and carefully wedged the nest securely into the crotch
of this tree. The female robin remained close to him through all of
this'procedure. He then left the nest and went back to the road where
the men of the crew were preparing to pull the old tree out with heavy
and very noisy machinery. Sterle watched the robin to see if she would
go to her nest. In less than fifteen minutes she had settled on the eggs
as if nothing had happened. Even the men and machinery, so close by,
failed to upset her motherly instinct to hatch her eggs and rear her young.
Moving nests of birds may not always prove as successful, very
likely depending upon the species and temperament of birds, but it is
worth a try rather than to destroy the nest by necessity. Moving slowly
and quietly and keeping the nest in plain sight of the parent birds
seems to help them to understand that you are not trying to harm the
nest, but to help them.

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