Birds on your doorstep

blackbird eggs
blackbird eggs

Q: Is it OK to peep in a blackbird’s nest in my hedge or will the bird desert?

A: Nesting birds are sensitive to disturbance and can often desert, especially in the early stages – nest building and incubation. It is best therefore to watch from a distance; this will reduce the risk of potential predators (e.g. crows, cats) taking an interest in what you are doing, disturbing the surroundings of the nest and generally worrying the parent birds. In the later stages, when the fledglings are older, going too close can make them scatter prematurely from the nest.

Q: I came across a baby bird on my lawn which was unable to fly - should I have rescued it?

A: If it was unfeathered, or nearly so, it might have fallen from a nest and could have been returned if the nest was located and accessible. If, however, it was fully feathered returning it to the nest might have scattered the other fledglings, so it was best left alone. Anyway, young birds which are out of the nest and alive are usually being looked after by the parent(s) and do not need our help, however vulnerable they may look.

Q: I saw a sparrow which was stretched out on my flower bed and appeared to be sunbathing: can this be so?

A: Yes. Like humans, birds do enjoy sunbathing,but there are also physiological advantages too. Parasites become more active in sunlight and can therefore be picked off more easily during preening, which normally follows sunbathing. Sunlight also promotes UV and stimulates the oil in the preen glands. It also helps to straighten and reshape ruffled feathers, and to dry them after rain or bathing.

Q: Why do some birds often stand on one leg?

A: Long-legged birds like herons and waders do this to minimise heat loss from their unfeathered parts: the potential for losing heat from blood coming down from the heart to the feet and back again is great, so birds tuck one leg under their body feathers when conditions are windy or icy.

Q: Do birds mate for life?

A: Most birds try to keep the same mate – either staying together all year or meeting up again in the spring, because it saves courting again from scratch.. This is more successful among larger birds like swans, which live longer, but small birds like tits and warblers face so many dangers that they rarely live longer than a year or two, so the chances of both members of a pair surviving from year to year are slim.