About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses

It is entertaining and educational to watch birds as they go through the many stages of their lives, including choosing a nest site, making the nest, laying eggs, feeding their hatchlings, and then, watching the fledglings as they venture out on their own.

Many people are choosing to bring this experience up close by placing nesting boxes (bird houses) around their backyards to house some of the many birds that would normally be looking for a hollow tree cavity. The following are a few tips to help you have a successful nesting season.

1. Bird House Specifications - Things to look for when choosing a house:
• Designed for the bird’s size and nesting requirements.
• Ventilation holes to provide a release for heat build-up.
• Easily cleaned.
• Easily mounted or hung.
• Durable to withstand several seasons of use.
• Drainage holes in the bottom of the house.

2. Bird House Nesting Materials
Birds use a variety of materials to construct their nests. The wren starts his nest with a bundle of sticks, the chickadee likes lots of soft fluff on top of a moss base, the bluebird uses grasses and pine needles, and the tree swallow gathers large bird feathers to line a shallow nest of grass and roots. Usually there is no lack of these materials in the wild, but we have encouraged birds to use our houses by placing Birdie Bell nesting materials near the boxes.

Another trick is to stuff chickadee and woodpecker bird houses with cedar chips. They prefer birdhouses with something to excavate.

3. Bird House Direction
In the northern states like Michigan the birds prefer the early morning sun coming in the front of the house as it faces the east. Put the houses where you can view them, but bird houses facing in easterly directions fledge more young than houses facing in other directions.

4. Bird House Location
Remember not all birds use bird houses. Cardinals, goldfinches, doves, jays, hummingbirds and orioles would never use a house because they build their own nests. Cavity nesters like chickadees and wrens like their bird houses placed 5 to 10 feet high in the cover of a bush or small tree.

Bluebirds and Tree swallows choose fairly open areas interspersed with trees and shrubs. Experts recommend that bluebird boxes be 5 feet high and spaced at least 300' apart.

To reduce the competition between bluebirds and swallows for houses it is recommended to pair houses. Setting up a pair of houses, with each house no more than 5-10 feet apart every 300 feet, is one proven technique that allows both songbirds to nest together successfully.

5. Bird House Protection
Wild Birds Unlimited has metal portal protectors that you can add to most houses to prevent squirrels from chewing the entrances larger.

To protect the nest inside the house from unwanted predators reaching in and stealing eggs, attach the Screw Mount Birdhouse Guardian. These will prevent squirrels, raccoons, opossum and cats from bending their arms to reach the resident birds. Crows, Blue Jays and grackles can't get their bodies through the guardian and are also deterred.

We also have baffles you can add to our Wild Birds Unlimited bird house poles or wood 4x4” poles. This will stop all squirrels and raccoons from climbing to the house.

If a bluebird family has already started to make a house and sparrows are harassing them put up a sparrow spooker. Basically once the bluebirds are committed to a nesting site you can hang shiny flutter ribbon above the birdhouse (you can find this "scare tape" at our stores). Studies have shown that certain bird species, including house sparrows, will not fly under the ribbon. For more detailed plans to make your own sparrow spooker, click HERE or visit: http://www.sialis.org/sparrowspooker.htm

Happy birding!

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