Dead birds, even babies, can transmit diseases like salmonella. Unfortunately, that means they are dangerous to have around or touch whether you’re human or avian.
You should never touch a dead baby bird with your bare hands, even if you think it might help other birds. What happens if a baby bird died in the nest?
When a baby bird dies in the nest, the parents may abandon the nest to search for a new mate and start over or the parents will push the dead baby bird out of the nest. Birds don’t bury their dead and keeping a decomposing body in the nest is dangerous because it causes diseases and will attract unwanted scavengers.
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Birds typically have several reactions when their babies die. From truly disturbing to near-human, the range is surprising. Below I’ve listed some of the common responses.
- Some parent birds ‘freak out,’ which is to say, they may flap, squawk, and otherwise show physical distress. Birds cannot cry since they have no tear ducts, so they display upset with other body language and sounds.
- Checking to see if the corpse is truly deceased is another typical response. Disbelief isn’t exclusive to humanity. Parents may spend a while nudging at the baby, hopefully.
- Jays and mourning doves may encircle or pace around the body. Additionally, the jays will warn other birds in the area in case of predators. Birds can’t necessarily tell the cause of death, and sometimes it is predators, though it’s rare for them to leave the meal behind.
- Less emotional species may eat the corpse if it’s fresh enough. Scavengers like maribous don’t necessarily need a fresh body since their stomachs can handle aging carrion.
- In a tree, parents quickly remove the dead from the nest. Doing this prevents scavengers and predators from smelling the rot.
- Although it’s not the most common reaction, parents may abandon the nest. This is more likely when they only had one surviving chick or no access to food.
Will Mother Birds Remove Dead Babies From Nest
Mother birds or fathers will remove a dead baby from the nest. Preventing the spread of disease is second nature to many species.
Plus, a corpse will begin to smell bad. Parents don’t want to attract unwanted attention from predators and scavengers.
In addition to other concerns, a dead body will also attract insects. Even birds don’t want to share their beds with ants.
When you find a baby bird dead at the base of a tree, it may have fallen, but it’s just as likely that the parents tossed it out after passing away.
What Causes Baby Birds To Die In The Nest
Baby birds are fragile creatures. Unfortunately, that means there are numerous reasons why they die in their nests.
Below is a list of the most common reasons for hatchling mortality.
- Abandonment – Lack of parents to feed and care for them will kill a baby bird within a day or two at most.
- Dehydration – Not enough water to maintain healthy cells is deadly.
- Disease – There are many diseases baby birds can catch.
- Nest-site Competition – Other birds who want to build nests may knock one out of a prime location.
- Overheating – Sunlight isn’t always a good thing, especially in the desert and other hot climates.
- Predators – Most predators take the baby with them to eat, but regardless, they will kill them in the nest.
Should I Remove A Dead Baby Bird From Nest
You should not remove a dead baby bird from the nest. The adult birds will handle it without the need for human intervention.
There are plenty of times that nature needs your help, but it’s better to reduce your carbon footprint and stop buying single-use plastics than mess with bird corpses regardless of how they make you feel.
Unless you have a set of disposable gloves in your pocket, just touching a bird’s corpse is a risk. There are good reasons you learned not to handle dead animals when you were a kid.
Salmonella and other diseases can transfer from birds to humans easily and quickly.
Just as important, touching most bird’s nests is illegal. You need a special permit to disturb wild bird nests.
As Robert Reeves Law explains, “Believe it or not, people have faced federal charges for removing or even disturbing bird nests. … The federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 makes it illegal to destroy or disturb nests with birds or eggs in them.”
Those laws apply to most bids, not just the endangered species, so it’s best if you don’t do anything if you find a bird nest with a dead baby inside.
Do Birds Mourn The Loss Of A Baby
Birds do mourn the loss of a baby. They will also mourn lost partners when they die. While not every species is especially sensitive, some, like pigeons, can grieve for weeks and even suffer from depression after losing a chick.
Birds are more intelligent than most animals. They have shown signs of self-awareness, and clearly, they have a sense of loyalty and family.
On top of that, they have excellent memories and show both feelings and individual personalities. Some birds will return to where they lost a chick and even go through obvious stages of mourning and recovery.
Parrots are exceptionally bright and sensitive. They will mourn the loss of their young partners and even human companions.
In extreme cases, parts can even die of a broken heart, and they aren’t the only species to react severely to loss. Mourning doves are literally named for their ability to grieve.
Helpful Tips To Know About What Happens If A Baby Bird Died In The Nest
Sadly, birds don’t bury their dead, even if they are newly hatched babies. Instead, they will throw them out of the nest to prevent attracting scavengers, predators, and diseases.
Here are a few more helpful tips to know about what happens if a baby bird died in the nest.
- It’s rare, but sometimes nothing happens if a baby bird died in the nest. If the adults die or abandon them, the baby will simply rot unless a predator comes along, which they usually do, but not always.
- Mother and father birds will push a deceased baby out of the nest for practical reasons if they get to it. However, numerous bird species have been known to practice cannibalism, so it’s always possible that the other fledglings will eat the unfortunate sibling. For example, according to PQSPB, the Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), “Adults are opportunistic foragers with a varied diet of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine animals. Fledglings are known to practice cannibalism, feeding on smaller nestlings fallen to the ground or already dead. Adults, on occasion, observed to eat chicks in adjacent nests.”
- Parent birds will sometimes abandon babies to their fate when there isn’t enough food around. However, if they’ve been scared away by predators, the mature birds are probably still in the area.
Thinking of dead baby birds in their nests is sad, but there’s nothing you can do about it. Especially when the birds are wild, the smartest, and the only legal option is to leave them alone.
If the baby has parents, they will handle the corpse with or without mourning. Predators, insects, scavengers, and decomposers need to eat too, so the body doesn’t ever go to waste.
When you see a dead baby bird, let it stay where it is.