There are a lot of birds that do return to the same nests each year, but the ones which you can find in trees and hedges are very rarely used more than once.
In spite of all the hard work that goes into the making of these fantastic nest creations from twigs, cobwebs, moss, wool, feathers and believe it or not, even cobwebs, you’d have thought that nests would be continuously used, but this is reasonably seldom, and only with specific bird breeds.
Starting from scratch
However, most birds don’t use their own nest again or use a re-built nest at all. They prefer to start again from scratch each year.
The average bird nest, in reality, is quite flimsy and probably won’t survive more than a season, and the building of a new nest is often part of the male’s role in proving his worth to his female, and the female getting ready to produce her brood.
Many bird species such as the thrush are just designed to build nests as part of their breeding process, and some nests are simply not durable enough to last for more than one season, and therefore a new nest has to be built anyway.
However, the birds which do tend to return to their nests every year include swifts and swallows, and there are birds which do tend to reuse nests – even if it isn’t their own!
Large predatory birds like Eagles and Hawks are well-known for reusing their nests over the period of many years.
We can assume this is down to convenience, as these large birds build huge nests, so it’s not quite that easy for them to start to build it all over again each time.
These large birds also like to return to the same area to breed again, so it makes sense to reuse their nest.
Smaller birds that reuse their nests include hummingbirds – they reuse them by simply adding more material on top of the existing nest year on year, so the oldest bits of the nest is hard and form a base – quite ingenious!
The reusing of a nest also has a lot to do with the nesting spot. Many birds like to return to their original nest because they want the area it’s in, so if the nest is no longer habitable, the bird will re-build a new one on that spot.
Birds such as red-headed woodpeckers, tree swallows, and robins particularly like to build new nests in the same spot.
Swallows tend to wait for their nests to fall each wintertime so they can re-build a nest in the same spot.
Birds also like to use other birds’ nest to inhabit. There are even birds that like to occupy other birds’ empty nests when the bird has left to migrate, and then they leave once the bird ‘owner’ returns!
If a bird such as a robin has several batches of broods each year, that’s a severe lot of work to keeping building new nests, so they tend to pinch others – birds don’t tend to be fussy when it comes to taking on a new home.
Because if they don’t like the way the nest is built, they simply add different materials to make them cosier and more suitable.
So, it’s probably not a good idea to remove a nest at any time of the year as you never know which bird is going to move in!