Hello, you outdoor enthusiasts!
Kid's Corner began
with the topic Birds and Their Care. Two of the next three columns will
deal with birdhouses and feeders. Fall and winter are good seasons to begin
planning these items. Our feathered friends return early in some parts
of the country; and some never head south at all! So you can see that waiting
until Master Robin appears in the spring is too late, really!
Why Build A Bird House?
Nest boxes, as
they are properly called, are an important conservation tool. Even though
there are hundreds of species of birds in North America, only about 85
of them nest in cavities. Even so, there is so much competition for natural
holes in tree trunks, that man-made nest boxes are appreciated by many
of these, especially bluebirds, wrens, woodducks, titmice, and chickadees.
Your library is a superb source of blueprints for many types of nest
boxes. In addition, your state wildlife department may offer free, or inexpensive
waxed cardboard bluebird boxes which only require folding and mounting
Some points to keep in mind that are not always mentioned
in the blueprints for birdhouses are:
a. Always use UNTREATED lumber at least ¾" thick such as cedar,
pine, and exterior plywood. This helps insulate the birds from cold
b. Leave the wood UNPAINTED. If you really must paint, use certified
non-toxic paint, and keep colors muted to blend in with the surrounding
leaves and tree barks. Use light shades to reflect heat and sunlight so
you don't turn your box into an oven.
c. Glue deteriorates, and nails rust and work their way out of shrinking
and warping wood. Use "galvanized screws" instead.
d. The box should have a hinged front or side wall that lets you easily
remove old nests at the end of the season. Old nests may contain parasites
and disease causing bacteria that will contaminate new nests. Some birds
will avoid a box with an old nest inside. At the end of the season, clean
the inside with a solution of ¼ cup chlorine bleach and 2 cups of
e. The entrance wall can be scored on the INSIDE with ridges to
give the birds a "ladder" to walk up to the hole.
f. Do not place a perching stick in front of the hole. The birds
do not need it, and it makes it easier for birds who rob other birds' nests
to gain entrance.
g. The box should have a roof line which hangs out over the entrance
hole to hamper invaders and protect the birds inside from driving rains.
h. The roof should also have ventilation openings near the top.
These can be drilled holes, or you can leave a slight gap between the top
of the walls and the roof boards.
i. Spread a thin layer of petroleum jelly along the inside of the roof
to keep wasps and bees from also nesting in the box.
j. The floor's edges should be covered by the wall boards, and you should
drill drainage holes, at least one in each corner, in case rain does get
k. Mount your nest boxes away from easy access by predators.
The best way is to mount them on a pole with a "baffle", a sheet metal
skirt or tube below the box on the pole. Many plans can be found in bird
books for these.
Why Baffles Are a Must!
Imagine your delight to discover one morning that two sweetly chirping
chickadees have chosen your carefully built nest box in which to raise
their family. They work for days building their nest, and finally, mama
settles down to incubate her newly laid egss. Then, one morning you notice
no activity around the box, and on closer inspection, you discover pieces
of shell, or bits of feathers lying on the ground. During the night, your
nest box undoubtedly served as a neat little "dinner in a dish" for a local
snake, raccoon, or other predator.
This is why a baffle of some kind is necessary for your birdhouse. Pretend
you are the predator. Would you climb, slither, or fly into the nest box?
Construct your baffle to ward off these advances.
These guidelines, and those in any birdhouse design book or article,
should bring happy little birds to nest in your yard.
Melani Roewe is a former news editor, Girl Scout Leader and Adult
Trainer and K-12 educator who enjoys alpine wilderness hiking, birdwatching,
fishing, snow- and water-skiing, swimming, and camping. She directs her
church's Youth and Adult Choirs and lives in Oklahoma with her husband
and two children. . She also does glass etching and owns The Glass Carver.