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August 2010


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For The Love of Gardens


Welcome Birds With A Bird House


Land development and harvesting of forests have displaced prime breeding habitats for many birds. Today more than ever birds need our help. The woodlands are being cleared to make room for strip malls and new home developments. With the native habitats being destroyed you will begin to see less and less birds in your yard. If you are like many native wildlife enthusiast you want to help preserve the bird population. By putting up bird houses in your yard you will help maintain healthy populations of birds. The average wood bird house can last up to 10 years thus providing a nesting place for over 50 birds during that time. In addition to providing food and water we need to give our feathered friends a place to nest. There are over 50 species of birds that nest in cavities of trees When they are unable to find natural nesting locations they readily adapt to manmade bird houses or nesting boxes. Therefore there is no single bird house that would be suitable for all birds.  Based on the birds that normally nest in your area will need to decide what type of home you will need to provide. There are many different factors to consider. The most important being the opening size, cavity depth, interior dimensions, house shape or design, materials used and the house locations. 

Wrens are not picky about their homes although they do prefer a snug fit. . A small simple home with a 1 – 2 inch horizontal entry slot. The horizontal versus circle is to keep predators out.  The house should be 4 x 6 with the entrance near the top. The male wren will build several nests for the female to choose. Hang several nesting boxes at eye level in an area with a little sunlight. Wren houses can be put quite close to your house as they are quite social. The house can be placed in shrubbery or on a tree limb.

Chickadees, Titmice and Nuthatches prefer homes similar to their natural environments. Chickadees prefer a deep, narrow wood birdhouse with the entrance hole at the top about 1 1/8 inches in diameter. They feel safe being able to nest in the bottom of the house. The chickadee house can hang from a limb or secure three trunk at eye level. Nuthatches homes should be anchored to a tree trunk about 5 -6 feet off the ground. You can encourage these birds to stay in your yard by continuing to fill your suet and peanut feeders through the summer.
Purple Martins need a home at least 6 inches across on the inside with an entrance hole 2 ½ inches in diameter, 1 ½ inches off the floor. They prefer man made and should be painted white on the outside. The martin needs about 40 feet of unobstructed flying space around their house. Martins nest in groups; therefore their house will look more like an apartment building than a house. The house should be placed 10-20 feet off the ground and have anywhere from 8-28 little units. Ventilation and drainage are critical factors in martin house design. Porches, railings, and supplemental roof perches, like a TV antenna, make any house more appealing. Purple Martins are migratory birds that will return year after year to the same home.

Bluebirds prefer their nest boxes mounted on a tree stump or wooden fence post about 5 feet height. Cedar and redwood about ¾ in think is best. Although any wood is acceptable as long as it is not treated. The entrance hole should be about 1 1/2 no larger to deter starlings. Bluebirds have many predators to help keep them safe mount the house on a metal pole or use a predator guard on the wood fence post.
American Robin prefers the crotch of a tree; or you can offer a nesting platform. The platform should be 6 feet high placed under an overhang on a shed or porch. Since Robins with utilize mud to hold their next together a nearby mud puddle would be idea.
Brown Creepers and Prothonotary warblers prefer a house made of bark. The only difference is the warbler’s box must be placed over water with a good canopy of trees overhead. The creepers prefer heavily wooded yards.
Tree and Violet Green Swallows nest in mountains; boxes placed in a wooded area with large trees will attract them to nest. The box should be about 7 feet apart ideally near a large field near a pond or lake.
Barn Swallows and Phoebes love open barns or old sheds.
Woodpeckers and Flickers prefer rough interiors with 2 inches of wood chips on the floor. Place in direct sunlight on tree trunks or the hallow of a tree. Ideally it should be 10-20 feet off the ground.

Flycatchers’ prefer abandoned woodpecker holes. Put their birdhouses about ten feet from
the ground on trees in orchards or near the edges of streams and fields.
Owls seldom build their own nests. Great horned and long-eared owls prefer abandoned crow and hawk nests. Other owls (barred, barn, saw-whet, boreal and screech) nest in tree cavities and bird houses. Barn owls are best known for selecting nesting sites near farms. Where trees are sparse, these birds will nest in church steeples, silos, and barns. If you live near a farm or a golf course, try fastening a nest box about 15 feet up on a tree trunk. Screech owls prefer abandoned woodpecker holes at the edge of a field or neglected orchard. They will readily take to a boxes lined with an inch or two of wood shavings. If you clean the box out in late spring after the young owls have fledged, you may attract a second tenant--a kestrel. Trees isolated from larger tracts of woods have less chance of squirrels taking over the box.
Face your bird house away from the prevailing winds of spring and summer, if possible. It is also important to have a tee or nearby bush. The birds will perch in this area before entering the bird house to survey the area to make sure it is safe to enter the house. They also may sit outside the house at times, watching the area for danger from which to defend the bird house.

Birds can be a bit choosy in their future home. It might be a good idea to offer several houses so the birds can choose their new home. Place them in various locations in the yard that are all suitable for your species.
Sometimes you will get lucky and have a pair of birds occupy a bird house within hours of the time you put it up. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, or even years. If a bird house has not been used after a year, try moving it to a different location. With this information you should be able to find the perfect bird house for your yard. Remember to clean it regularly and provide food and water.

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