General Question

aviona's avatar

Do birds steal other birds' nests?

Asked by aviona (3240points) April 1st, 2009

I’ve been observing two sterling jays (a mom and dad, I think) build a nest outside my front door for the past few days. All of a sudden a third one swooped in and scared them off today. Now, I’m not sure who it rightfully belongs to, but is it possible that he’s a squatter—a nest-stealer? Do birds do this?

Or maybe it’s a gay couple and a surrogate???

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5 Answers

sandystrachan's avatar

Birds do indeed use other nests made by other birds . They also use other things as nests burrows made by other animals. Some breeding males even have more than one female .

Harp's avatar

Blue Jays, Scrub Jays and Steller’s Jays are infamous for this behavior:

“A very aggressive and domineering bird, Stellers Jays prefer to steal other peoples nests and prey on their young.”

from here

aviona's avatar


gailcalled's avatar

Cowbirds always use others’ nests. The cowbirds here break the eggs already laid in the nest and lay one egg of their own (a white one with brown freckles.) They then expect the host bird to raise the cowbird’s young. I have watched it under my deck with a phoebe’s nest.

“The Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) is North America’s most notorious brood parasite. Instead of building their own nests, incubating their own eggs and raising their own nestlings, Brown-headed Cowbirds have a different breeding strategy. Cowbird females use other bird species as hosts—laying their eggs in the nests of other bird species and relying on these hosts to incubate and raise their chicks.

Scientists have now recorded that Brown-headed Cowbirds have parasitized over 220 host species, ranging from the Black-capped Vireo and Wood Thrush to the Blue-winged Teal and Red-headed Woodpecker. While not all hosts make good foster parents—a number of species reject cowbird eggs—cowbird chicks have been successfully reared by over 150 host species, with songbirds comprising the majority of hosts.”

Critter38's avatar

Birds of many species will steal nests, nesting material, nesting hollows, food, and “partners”, of their own and other species (well, not the partners of other species…usually…hybrids do occur). They will also steal or merely destroy the bowers (constructions built by a male bower bird to to advertise his fitness to females) of competing males.

It’s a cost benefit ratio. If the species has a breeding system in which there is a net gain in reproductive fitness for some individuals if they steal the nest of another individual, then some individuals of that species are likely to do so.

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