Bird BiosTypical Timetables: How Long Will it Take to Nest?

Typical Timetables: How Long Will it Take to Nest?

Select the species you want to check on in the drop down box, or scroll down this page.Also see Nest ID Matrix (contents) and Egg ID Matrix (color, spots, etc.)
To see other cavity nester bios/photos:

Here are some common questions about nesting timetables. The answers depend on a variety of factors. Birds don’t read books! And not all books agree. That is because the timeframes can depend on the species, location, individual experience, temperatures, food supplies, disturbance, and many other factors. The table below shows a typical nesting timetables for a variety of common small cavity nesters that are often found in nestboxes.

Q: How long does it take to build a nest?
A: Depends on the availability of nest sites, competition, availability of nesting material, the species (e.g., whether both male and female build)

Q: How many eggs will they lay?
A: Depends on the species, food availability, time of year, age of female, More info

Q: When does incubation begin?
A: Usually on the last, or next to last (penultimate) egg, depending on the species.

Q: How long do they incubate the eggs for?
A: Depends the species and temperature (hot temperatures may accelerate, cold may slow, extremes may kill embryos

Q: How long till the babies fledge (leave the nest)?
A: Depends on the species, health, disturbance (e.g., may cause premature fledging), hatch dates (e.g., latest hatcher may fledge later than the rest of the brood) and individual courage

Q: How many broods will they have?
A: Depends on species, location, food and mate availability, climate and competition. More info

INFORMATION BY SPECIES (scientific name) on the # eggs usually laid, typical incubation period, Number of days (after hatching) til fledging, # of broods possible, and More Info on biology.  THIS PART IS STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS.

References and More Information:

  • Birds of North American online (Cornell) – detailed species accounts, scientific references, descriptions of behavior, nesting timing, migration, population trends, conservation, etc. (paid subscription for full access)
  • Breeding Bird Survey (USGS) Relative Abundance Maps
  • Cavity-Nesting Birds of North American Forests, USDA Forest Service, formerly at
  • Nest and Egg ID,

“Never say never” is my best advice to bluebirders everywhere. Just when you think you can make sweeping statements, an exception seems to “pop up.” I use what works best for me on my trails. Others will eventually find out what works best for them on theirs!
– Ann Wick, WI, Bluebird_L, 2006


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