The Birds Are Back for a 3rd Year In a Row! But Will We See Any Eggs or Chicks?

Outside of our garage we have an outdoor light fixture that lost its cover a few years ago, probably due to a storm or heavy wind, and also probably due to my changing the light bulb and not screwing the cover back on properly. What else is new. I did take the light bulb out because we rarely use it. There is an overhang from the garage roof which provides some cover, so not only is water getting into the fixture not much of a problem, but that’s probably the reason as to why birds having been building a nest in the first place: it’s dry, covered, and out of reach and sight of most predators.

So today, April 6th 2022, I noticed that most likely the same species of birds, or their offspring, or maybe another species altogether, are making a nest in the light fixture again, after I’ve cleaned it out twice already. So this marks the third year in a row (2020, 2021, and now 2022) that the birds are back making a nest. It’s so awesome, yet at the same time, I don’t really like it (which I’ll explain why at the end of this post).

Small birds are back building a nest
in our light fixture for the 3rd year in a row

Back in the spring of 2020 is when we first noticed that small birds of some kind had been building a nest in the light fixture, but we never saw them in action. So we let them be and thought we’d see what might come of their diligent efforts. About a month or so later we caught the little culprits in the act as they were flying to and from the nest / light fixture, even spying one of them sitting in the nest, but it would fly away as soon as we approached within about 10 feet of it. Upon closer inspection we found what you see in the photo below which was taken haphazardly and quickly with my phone on April 7, 2020: five small bird eggs.

5 small bird eggs laid in a nest in April 2020
built in our exterior light fixture

I’m not sure of the exact species. I am guessing the eggs and the birds belong to one of the following species that are most likely native to Pennsylvania: (purple) finch, warbler or thrush. I can’t imagine migrating birds building a nest here, but hey I’m no expert so anything is possible, but I’d most likely think they are small birds native to the (Southeastern) Pennsylvania area.

As I mentioned previously, we did see the small birds, both of which are varying shades of brown in color, with the male having what appeared to be a reddish hue around its chest, at least based on my best recollection from two years ago. I don’t think they were cardinals. The male was definitely not entirely red, nor did they have the small tufts of hair on their heads, both of which are distinguishing characteristics of cardinals.

About a month or so later, or maybe a couple of weeks, the five eggs hatched into five young chicks. I managed to capture some footage of them with my camcorder, but I think I deleted it. You should have seen them though! So very cute and adorable, as are almost all forms of young life. We kept tabs on them over the following week or so, and watched as they grew from helpless newborns with their eyes closed tight to teenagers ready to fly the coop! Again, it’s too bad I don’t have any pics. We just didn’t want to constantly bother and be a nuisance to momma bird and her chicks. About a week or so later when the nest was no longer a home or being used, I cleaned out the fixture.

Then came 2021 and once again another pair of birds were back building a nest in the light fixture. I don’t recollect us paying as much attention to them as we did the first time a nest was built, as that was the first time we ever saw anything like that, so obviously we were much more fascinated and excited. But as you can see based on the photo below taken with my phone on June 17, 2021: small momma bird (either the same mother from the prior year 2020, one of the offspring hatched in 2020, or a new pair / species altogether) was successful in laying four eggs this time around.

4 small bird eggs laid in a nest in June 2021
built in our light fixture for the second year in a row

We never saw much nest activity in 2021 as we did the first time in 2020. Not that we weren’t paying any attention, we were. But for some reason we never noticed the adult birds sitting in the nest, nor did we ever see any of the young chicks. We may not have been checking on the nest almost every day like we did back in 2020, but we definitely were checking in without weeks passing. So at one point we decided to give a close inspection on the nest as there just wasn’t much activity happening, and we found that the eggs were gone! There was nothing on the ground either. So I can only think of 2 possible reasons: one: the eggs were not fertile so the parents got rid of them which I guess is possible. I would think they birds would leave the eggs and just abandon the nest. Or perhaps the second more likely reason: a predator managed to snatch the eggs. We did have a family of crows frequenting our area, so it’s possible it was them, or maybe a hawk which also live very close, or a squirrel got onto the light fixture and took the eggs. So whether the eggs were not fertile, or a predator got the, we never got a chance to see any young chicks.

Lastly, as I began to mention previously, the one reason I don’t like the birds building a nest in the fixture is because it doesn’t allow the next to expand as the chicks grow larger and eventually outgrow their nest. Back in 2020 when they were close to leaving the nest, the five chicks seemed quite cramped together. I felt bad for whichever ones were underneath their siblings who were practically sitting on top of them. But maybe that’s just how nest life is? I don’t know, I’m no expert. There are bird boxes that exist, so the same thought would apply there. But apparently they had no problem developing as all the chicks that hatched back in 2020 were able to fly away from the next and none of them were found dead or underdeveloped.

So here we are in 2022 with another nest in progress and I’ll keep you posted in the coming weeks as to whether or not any eggs are laid, if they hatch, and if we get a chance to see the chicks! Let’s keep our fingers crossed and I promise to capture some photos of the eggs and chicks developing if we’re lucky this year!

– E.R.