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.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nest of sticks in bluebird box

Hi: I made a bluebird nesting box last spring and put it at the end of my property I never saw any birds go in or out but I began to see nesting materials which looked like twigs. Today, I decided to clean out the nesting box and get it ready for next spring. The nesting box was full of twigs, not the usual materials I see for bird nests in our trees (straw, grass, etc.). Do you have any idea of the kind of bird that would make that kind of a nest? We usually see cardinals, sparrows, chickadees, mourning doves, and blue jays. I am located in Williston, Vermont. Thank you, Louis

A male House Wren or Carolina Wren may lay claim to a nesting cavity by filling it with more than 400 small twigs. If the female likes what she sees, she will then take over, making the soft nest cup with grass, inner bark, hair, and feathers. Wrens will usually lay 2 broods in the nesting season from May to July.

The male wren builds several starter nests and the female is the one that chooses which she prefers. The other nests may be used by the male to raise a second brood with another female or remain in place to discourage other male wrens from nesting in the same territory.

The stick-filled cavity of the wren nest provides "stilts" for the nest cup which allows rainwater to collect in the bottom of the nesting cavity without endangering the eggs or young.

For more information about wrens, visit http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/House_Wren/guide/browse_tax.aspx?family=63 Thanks for the question, Sarah

Sarah: Thank YOU for the prompt reply. I have attached a photo of the nesting box.
Have a great day! 

If you don't see any soft materials inside, it's either a dummy nest to deter other birds or an unsuccessful attempt to attract a female wren.

Wrens, chickadees, and sparrows find the box more attractive when it’s near trees and lots of underbrush or bushes.

Bluebird enthusiasts have found the best way to attract bluebirds and tree swallows is to place your nest box in an open, grassy field edge or lawn area away from trees (100 ft or more apart). It should be at least 50 feet away from bird-feeders and your house. Face the box away from prevailing winds (south is preferred) and mount boxes approximately 5 feet high.

Can I use your photo on the blog so other people recognize the nest? Sarah  

Sarah: Thanks for the information. I should move the box to a more open area next spring. Yes, you may use the photo for whatever purpose. Cheers! ~Louis

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Anonymous said...

My bluebird box was just vacaated by a bluebird family, and now (just a couple of days later), it is filled with twigs, as described in an above post. No soft material in it yet. So how long should I wait before clearing out these twigs so that bluebirds or some other birds, with more serious intentions, can move in? Thanks.

Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan said...

One reason wrens use dummy nests is to keep other birds from using a nest box. Bluebirds usually take a two week vacation between their first and second broods and this is when chickadees and wrens may move in to a vacated bird house.

You can remove the sticks a wren has put in the box if you think it’s not being used. However if you remove the sticks and he puts them back in the box just leave them there to allow the wren to nest or remove the sticks and leave the box wide open to deter any nesting.

If the bluebird comes back to a house that a wren now feels is his, they could destroy any eggs/young of a bird trying to use the box.