We just want every little thing to be alright
June 10, 2015 1:57 PM   Subscribe

I woke up this morning, smiled with the rising sun, and then heard (approximately) three little birds singing in my bathroom ceiling. Upon further investigation, it turns out that they are nesting in our bathroom venting, in the ductwork between the the ventilation fan and the exterior wall. We have seen the adults fly into the vent opening on the side of our house carrying food to their babies, and we hear the babies chirruping throughout the day.

The parent is a little brown bird, of a kind that is very common where we live in the Boston area.

We don't like the idea of hurting little baby birds, but we're also not keen on the idea of having animals living in our ductwork. It doesn't seem like a good path to go down.

How should we deal with this situation?
posted by alms to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Birds only nest in order to raise nestlings, so everybody should pretty much have vacated by the fall. Could you wait until then (or, alternatively, until this round of babies grows up, but before the second late-summer round of eggs has been laid) and then block off the ductwork from the outside?
posted by Bardolph at 2:02 PM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

Well, all i can say is don't worry about a thing, because every little thing is gonna be alright when the bird babies grow up in a few weeks and exodus. You might be waiting in vain there for a while though but until then, no cry, just skank it slow and let them sing their sweet songs of melodies pure and true.
posted by ramix at 2:11 PM on June 10, 2015 [50 favorites]

They fledge so fast! If you could give more specifics about the parent bird(s), maybe we could help you identify it and give you a better idea of how long you'll have to wait.
posted by amtho at 2:17 PM on June 10, 2015

Its illegal to disturb an active nest, unless you have a Canada Goose setting up shop in there (or another nuisance species). Just wait it out. Most babies fledge in 14-21 days and then you can seal up their access.
posted by Ostara at 2:23 PM on June 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

Leave them be. When they're gone, clear the nest, fix a bit of mesh under the vent cover to prevent reentry, and maybe hang a couple types of bird boxes nearby!

If it's a direct line to the exterior, I might also open up the ceiling side of the fan just a bit to get an idea of how exposed the fan is from the back (to birdies). If it's a fan that comes on automatically with the light, I might also disconnect that temporarily, taking appropriate electrical precautions.
posted by zennie at 2:33 PM on June 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Leave them be, per the advice above.

When you go to close off the hole, spray some bleach/water mixture around as a disinfectant and deodorizer.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:35 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I agree with everyone who says to wait it out for a few weeks. Several years ago, we had a mockingbird make a nest in a wreath hung on our front door (Mrs. Tanizaki hangs seasonal wreaths all year long). This made the front door unusable but it only lasted a few weeks. Just wait it out - this is a temporary group of roommates.

You will need to clean out their guano once they depart. Since this is in ventilation, you should have a professional handle it because inhaling bird guano dust is a severe health hazard. I know a man who died of an illness he contracted from inhaling guano dust.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:49 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

You have three choices - wait until the babies leave the nest (which won't take long), remove the nest now and toss it somewhere, or try to relocate the nest (which may be more trouble than it's worth and may not work.)

I'm guessing they're either house sparrows or house finches. House sparrows are not native to North America and are generally considered a nuisance species. They're not protected by law, so you could legally destroy a house sparrow nest. House finches are protected, but realistically no one is going to know or care if you destroy the nest. They're not rare and you won't have any effect on their overall population if you destroy this one nest.

House sparrows will be ready to leave the nest just a couple of weeks after they hatch. House finches may take a little longer, but whatever species they are they should be gone 3 weeks from now. The parents may want to raise a second brood in the same spot or come back next year, so you should block the entrance with something like hardware cloth as soon as this brood is gone.

If you're anxious to get them out of there as soon as possible and want to read about what would be involved in relocating the nest, there are instructions here.
posted by Redstart at 2:55 PM on June 10, 2015

Call in an expert to look at it. If the birds get in the wrong area, they could end up burning the house down. It happens. Yes, baby birds are cute and all of that but protecting yourself from a house fire is more important than protecting baby birds.
posted by myselfasme at 3:59 PM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses. I'm surprised but happy to take this advice. If it's just two or three weeks, that shouldn't be a problem. Is there any trick to knowing when they're all out?

We will find some experts to take a look and schedule a clean up and sealing once the birds are fledged.
posted by alms at 7:09 AM on June 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

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