Bringing up Baby… Homes for the Birds
Every year I enjoy putting up nest boxes around my house. It’s cool to see what birds use them and sometimes even get to see the baby birds fledge. For me, the nest boxes are a choice since I live in the country and there are plenty of natural homes available. But in the city and suburbs, nest boxes are vital since in these areas it can be difficult for birds to find natural shelter near food and water sources. No matter where you live, by providing a place for birds to nest, you’ll often be able to see them at close range and have a natural ally in the war against insects. In North America, there are over 35 species of birds that readily accept nest boxes. And the majority of those are heavy insect feeders and cavity nesting birds. In more natural settings, these birds would find cavities in old trees or fence posts and telephone poles. But, in city and suburban settings, those cavities can be hard to find. If you’d like to have nesting birds around, it’s really as simple as hanging up a birdhouse. You can hang the birdhouse securely in a tree or mount it directly to the tree trunk. Forest species like woodpeckers and chickadees will like the house mounted directly while the rest will appreciate the nest being clear of the main trunk where sunshine can hit it. You can easily find pre-made nest boxes at the hardware store or make one yourself. Make sure that the nest you choose has ventilation holes near the top of the sides to provide fresh air and keep the nest from being totally dark. You can fill the nest box with some wood chips to give the birds a head start, or just leave it empty and let the birds gather their own materials. I’m always cautious, so I like to mount nest boxes on poles to discourage predators and give the birds a clear flight path to the entrance hole. I also like to face the hole away from windy storms, so I face it to the south, southwest or west. It’s best to set your nest boxes up in early winter so the boxes can become a little weathered which makes the birds accept them more. One word of caution, I have found that even though I provide boxes, the birds I feed tend to find spaces on their own. In fact last year, a pair of chickadees nested in one of my hanging plants. Needless to say, it was pretty tricky watering that plant for a few weeks. This year, my kids and I made boxes that are backless and cling to the window so you can watch the whole nesting process. Ours are hung and ready for use. So, keep your fingers crossed!