Real Estate for the Birds

What are your feathered backyard friends looking for in a home? While many people choose birdhouses just for color or style, bird houses can help provide shelter for birds made homeless by deforestation. Birdfeeders are also good to have on hand, but bird houses help cavity-nesting species who typically eat berries and insects, not seeds. Here are some things to consider when choosing a birdhouse for your yard.

Know your audience

You probably know the type of birds that come to your yard or what you would like to see out your kitchen window. But different kinds of birds are attracted to different colors, like different locations or need different size homes or styles of houses in order to be comfortable. Do some research on your birds before choosing a birdhouse. Check out nestwatch.org for some good pointers!

Location, location, location

Some birds don’t mind being close to humans but for the most part, it is wise to have your birdhouse away from walkways. Attach your house to a post at least 5 feet off the ground. Remember that these are birds who usually make homes in high sturdy trees. They want to be away from predators and feel that their nests are secure. A single smooth pole will also be harder for predators to climb.

Make an entrance

Depending on the type of birds common to your area, the size of the bird house door matters. Consider the difference in size between a Sparrow and a Cardinal! Too small may prevent the birds you are attracting from being able to fit, while a large entrance can let in uninvited guests, such as squirrels and predatory birds. Some species, such as Robins, like an open-faced box, with no front wall.

It’s what’s on the outside that counts

Slanted roofs are necessary to make sure water can run off the top of the birdhouse. Be sure it extends over the entry to prevent water from getting into the nest. Holes drilled into the bottom of the house will help drain any water. Light colored and plain wood houses often attract more birds who are looking for something similar to a tree. Stay away from all black houses as the dark paint can absorb sunlight, making the house too hot to handle. Perches may look cute and are often necessary on bird feeders, but on bird houses they are not needed by the sharp-clawed cavity-nesters. A perch can also make it easy for a predator to disturb the nest.

Spring Cleaning

Once a year (usually late winter before the birds start looking for homes) take down your bird house and clean it. Remove the old nest and scrub the box with a mild bleach, allowing it to dry in the sun if possible. This will help kill nasty parasites and mites that can harm birds. You can leave the box empty or add nesting materials (look a pre-furnished apartment)! Common nest linings include moss, twigs, feathers, pine needles, shredded bark, soft grasses, yarn scraps, small pieces of fabric and hair.

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