Why Do Birds Abandon Their Nests With Eggs (10 Reasons)

Birds abandon their nests with eggs for various reasons, such as disturbances, and predation threats, if they perceive their eggs as unviable or migrate to another nest.

But this is not always the case. Some birds leave nests when they cannot find food around the nesting area and protect their eggs.

Birds often leave their nests with eggs, even when you’ve been watching them diligently. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind this behavior.

10 Reasons Why Birds Abandon Their Nests With Eggs

Abandoning a nest with eggs is often a difficult decision for a bird, but it may be necessary to ensure the survival of the parent bird or its future offspring.

Expert bird researchers talked about some common reasons for some birds.

For example, cowbirds and cuckoos can raise more young by laying their eggs in the nests of other birds, rather than building their nests and incubating their eggs.

Brown-headed nuthatches and house wrens abandon their nests if they feel that they are not safe. Killdeer may abandon their nests if they are destroyed, to save their energy and try to nest again in a safer location.

It is important to note that abandoning their nests is a last resort for birds. They will only do this if they feel that there is no other way to protect themselves or their young.

Every parent bird has her reason to leave it. Some common reasons are:

  • Predation: One of the most common reasons for birds to abandon their nests is predation. If a predator, such as a cat, snake, or hawk, discovers a nest, the parent birds may abandon it to protect themselves and their young.
  • Disturbance: Birds are also sensitive to disturbances in their nesting environment. This could be due to human activity, such as construction or lawn mowing, or it could be due to other animals, such as pets or competing birds. If a nest is disturbed too often, the parent birds may abandon it.
  • Lack of resources: Birds also need access to food and water to raise their young. If there is a shortage of resources, or if the nesting habitat is not suitable, the parent birds may abandon their nest.
  • Infertility: In some cases, bird eggs may be infertile or damaged. If the parent birds realize that their eggs are not viable, they may abandon the nest.
  • Death of a parent: If one of the parent birds dies, the other parent may abandon the nest, especially in species where both parents are needed to incubate the eggs and care for the young.
  • Parasites and diseases: Parasites and diseases can make the nest environment uncomfortable or even harmful to the eggs and chicks. Birds may abandon their nest if they detect a parasite or disease infestation.
  • Extreme weather: Extreme weather events, such as storms, floods, and droughts, can damage or destroy bird nests. Birds may abandon their nest if it is no longer habitable.
  • Competition: In some cases, birds may abandon their nest if they are facing competition from other birds for food, nesting sites, or mates.
  • Instinct: Some birds have an instinct to abandon their nest if it is disturbed too much. This may be a way to avoid predators or to reduce the risk of diseases spreading.
  • When the existing nest is destroyed they don’t have enough time to protect eggs, find food, and build a new nest at the same time. In that case, they migrate to another nest with eggs that are already abandoned and in better condition.

Most birds abandon their nests soon after hatching, except some songbirds and other precocial birds.

Precocial birds are birds that are born with their eyes open and can walk and feed themselves soon after hatching. These birds, such as ducks, geese, and chickens, typically abandon their nests within a few hours or days of hatching.

Songbirds typically stay in their nests for 10-21 days before fledging, or leaving the nest for good.

The Risks of Egg Movement

If a bird abandons its current nest and moves to another place with the eggs, the eggs are likely to die. This is because eggs are very fragile and need to be incubated at a constant temperature to develop.

If the eggs are jostled or exposed to extreme temperatures, they are likely to be damaged or killed.

Birds have evolved mechanisms to detect whether an egg is viable or not. If a bird moves its eggs to a new nest, it is unlikely to be able to assess the condition of the eggs in the same way that it could in its original nest.

This is because the bird may not have the same familiarity with the new nest site and may not be able to detect the same visual and olfactory cues.

As a result, if a bird moves its eggs to a new nest, there is a high risk that the eggs will die.

Here are some specific ways that the eggs may be damaged or killed:

  • Physical damage: If the eggs are jostled or dropped during the move, they may be cracked or crushed.
  • Temperature extremes: If the eggs are exposed to extreme heat or cold during the move, they may die.
  • Predation: If the eggs are left unattended while the bird is moving, they may be eaten by predators.
  • Disease: If the new nest site is unhygienic or infected with disease, the eggs may become contaminated and die.
Effect of Bird Abandoning Nest
source: Canva

How to tell if a mother bird has abandoned her nest

If you find eggs or baby birds alone in a nest, the mother bird may have abandoned them. However, it’s also possible that she is simply out foraging for food.

It’s best to observe them for a few hours to see if the mother bird returns. If she doesn’t return, you can contact a local wildlife rehabilitator for help.

If you see a parent bird sitting on the edge of the nest or flying around nearby, it’s a good sign that the nest is not abandoned. If you’re unsure whether or not a nest has been abandoned, it’s best to leave it alone.

There are a few things you can look for to tell if a mother bird has abandoned her nest:

  • No adult birds around: If you haven’t seen any adult birds near the nest in several hours, they may have abandoned it.
  • Cold eggs: If the eggs in the nest are cold to the touch, it’s a sign that the mother bird has not been incubating them.
  • Cracked or broken eggs: If the eggs in the nest are cracked or broken, it’s a sign that they have been abandoned.
  • Foul smell: If the nest has a foul smell, it’s a sign that it has been abandoned and the eggs or chicks have died.

What to Do With Abandoned Bird Eggs

If you find an abandoned bird egg and are willing to preserve it, then a few things you can do. But it’s best to find a list of wildlife rehabilitators in your area by searching online or by contacting your local wildlife agency for help.

  1. Clean the egg: Gently clean the egg with a damp cloth to remove any dirt or debris. Be careful not to handle the egg too much, as the oils from your skin can damage it.
  2. Make a hole in the egg: Use a sharp needle or drill to make a small hole in each end of the egg. This will allow the air to circulate and prevent the egg from rotting.
  3. Blow out the contents of the egg: Place a straw in one of the holes and blow into the other hole. This will force the contents of the egg out of the straw.
  4. Rinse the egg: Rinse the egg with clean water to remove any remaining traces of the contents.
  5. Dry the egg: Air dry the egg for several days.
  6. Apply a sealant: Once the egg is completely dry, apply a sealant to the outside of the egg. This will help to protect the egg and prevent it from cracking.

You can use a variety of different sealants, such as clear nail polish, varnish, or polyurethane. Be sure to choose a sealant that is non-toxic and safe to use on food containers.

You can also use the egg to start a new nest by using it as a model or drawing out the shape of a nest or eggs on paper. But be careful not to damage the shell while doing this.

How Long Can Bird Eggs Be Left Unattended

It depends on the species of bird, the stage of development of the embryo, and the ambient temperature. In general, bird eggs can survive for up to 2 weeks without warmth before incubation begins. After incubation begins, bird eggs can only survive for a few hours without warmth.

Here is a more detailed breakdown of how long bird eggs can survive without warmth, depending on the stage of development:

  • Before incubation: Bird eggs can survive for up to 2 weeks without warmth before incubation begins. This is because the embryo is still in a very early stage of development and is not as sensitive to temperature changes.
  • Early incubation: Once incubation begins, the embryo is more sensitive to temperature changes and can only survive for a few hours without warmth. This is because the embryo is starting to develop organs and systems that are essential for survival.
  • Late incubation: In the later stages of incubation, the embryo is even more sensitive to temperature changes and can only survive for a few minutes without warmth. This is because the embryo is almost fully developed and is ready to hatch.

Will a bird come back to a disturbed nest with eggs?

A bird can come back to a disturbed nest with eggs, but it is not guaranteed. Birds have a strong instinct to protect their eggs, but they are also very cautious.

The following factors can affect whether or not a bird will come back to a disturbed nest with eggs:

  • How much the nest was disturbed: If the nest was only slightly disturbed, the bird may be more likely to come back. However, if the nest is severely disturbed or damaged, the bird is less likely to come back.
  • How close the bird is to hatching the eggs: If the eggs are close to hatching, the bird is more likely to come back. This is because the bird has invested a lot of time and energy into incubating the eggs, and it is less likely to abandon them at this point.
  • The type of bird: Some species of birds are more tolerant of disturbances than others. For example, robins are known to be very forgiving of disturbances, while other birds, such as hawks, are more likely to abandon their nests if they are disturbed.

What happens if you touch a bird nest

Birds have a strong sense of smell, and they can detect human scent on their eggs and chicks. If a bird smells human scent on its nest, it may think that the nest is no longer safe.

Bird eggs and chicks are very fragile, and even a gentle touch can damage them. If you accidentally crack an egg, it will not hatch. If you disturb a chick, it may become stressed and die.

Birds are susceptible to a variety of diseases and parasites, and you could accidentally introduce them to the nest if you touch it. This could harm or even kill the eggs, chicks, or parent birds.


The birds may leave their nests with eggs because they face many challenges. Sometimes, they might also sense that the eggs won’t hatch, so they decide to start anew.


Do hummingbirds abandon their nests?

Yes, hummingbirds abandon their nests. Hummingbird nests are often preyed upon by snakes, lizards, and other animals. Hummingbirds need a constant supply of nectar to feed themselves and their chicks. If they cannot find enough food, they may abandon their nest.

Do birds destroy their nests?

Yes, birds can destroy their nests. If a bird’s nest becomes infested with parasites or diseases or finds a better nesting site the bird may destroy it.

What birds leave their eggs in other nests?

Several bird species practice brood parasitism, which is when they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. The host birds then incubate and raise the parasitic chicks as their own.

Some common brood parasites include Cowbirds, Cuckoos, Honeyguides, and Old World finches.

Why do lovebirds abandon their eggs?

Lovebirds may abandon their eggs due to infertility, stress, inadequate diet, or health problems.

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