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Father Time Carved Bluebird House

Garden Article Feb. 8, 2020

According to Punxsutawney Phil spring is near so now is the time to start planning the placement of some birdhouses in the landscape for the upcoming spring.  Birdhouses must be clean and in place before the mating season begins for the nesting spots to be noticed by the birds being attracted. By attracting nesting birds to your backyard provides the unique opportunity to see the entire life cycle of backyard birds, from courtship behavior to nest building to raising the young fledglings.

It is recommended that the birdhouse faces the opposite direction from prevailing winds. This means, as much as practical, birdhouses should face a northeasterly direction. The height where you place bird boxes should be at least five feet off the ground but this could increase depending on the type of birds you are trying to attract. It is a necessity to place the birdhouse where it will be inaccessible to enemies. Regardless of where birdhouses are located, they should be placed at least 25 feet apart.

Keep in mind that while it is essential to attract more birds to your backyard so potential residents will notice the birdhouse, it is important to remember that nesting birds require privacy to feel secure while raising their families. Once a yard is attractive to birds, the birdhouse or nest box should be placed in a private area of the yard away from the busiest concentrations of feathered visitors.

A couple of ways to attract birds to nesting areas in your yard are food and water. : A variety of food sources, including bird feeders as well as natural foods, will ensure that nesting birds have plenty to feed their chicks.  All birds need fresh water for drinking and bathing, and a clean water source can make a yard even more attractive for nesting birds.

Nesting materials are perfect for attracting nesting birds to your back yard.  With the right nesting material, you may even be able to attract several families of birds to your backyard.

The term “nesting material” refers to anything that birds may use to construct a nest. Whether they create a simple depression of sticks and straw or if they have a more elaborate nest structure, all birds need good materials for their nests. Regardless of the nest size or shape, the nesting material serves several purposes:

Nesting materials help cushion eggs from the ground and parents’ weight, insulate eggs from temperature changes, help hold the clutch together for heat efficiency, camouflaging the nest from predators and protect the nest from the elements. To best protect their eggs, parent birds select nesting material carefully, and many birds use several types of material to construct a single nest.

Materials popular for building nests are twigs and sticks, dead leaves, grass clippings or dead grass, yarn, string or thread in 3 to 6 inch lengths, human hair or animal fur, feathers, moss, pine needles, mud, straw or other plant stems, dental floss, shredded paper, broom bristles or mop strings and cotton balls to name a few.

Offer these items to the birds by draping material over trees or shrubs near birdfeeders or sheltered spots where birds may build nests. Do not tie the material down, as the purpose is to allow birds to take it away. Use a clean suet cage or similar feeder design and fill it with nesting material. Hang this arrangement in a visible area where birds will notice it. Create small piles of nesting material in places where it won’t blow away or be soaked in spring rains.  Fill a mesh bag or basket loosely with suitable nesting material. Be sure the mesh is wide enough for birds to extract the material, and hang it in a visible location.  Leave leaf litter and grass clippings loose on the ground instead of bagging the material. Birds will help themselves to the material they are interested in. For the best results, offer several types of nesting material in several different ways to appeal to different birds.

Do not offer any plastic or nylon material, including fishing line. These materials can be deadly to the birds and are frequently responsible for bird injuries. For fibers, natural cotton and wool are preferred to synthetics.

Be sure your backyard is bird-friendly with appropriate shelter, trees, and birdhouses so they will use that nesting material nearby. By offering a wide variety of materials, you can invite backyard birds to build nests and raise their families close by, leading to unique and rewarding backyard birding experiences.

Even a bird-friendly yard with a birdhouse won’t attract nesting birds if it isn’t the right type of house. Different birds prefer different house sizes and styles, and there are certain considerations birders should make to be sure they have selected the right house for their birds. Choose a house with the right entrance hole size for the desired birdhouse resident.  Be sure the house is the right overall size, including interior floor space and height. Adjust the house as needed to be safe, including proper ventilation and drainage holes. Take steps to protect birdhouses from predators, including raccoons, mice, and snakes. Baffles can keep predators from getting to the house, and removing house entrance perches can ensure predators don’t get a foothold to get into the house.

Garden Tip: By knowing what birds are most likely to use a birdhouse, how to make your yard attractive to nesting birds, and how to ensure the house is suitable for the birds you attract; it is easy to become a bird landlord for many breeding seasons to come.

Dave Vargo is the owner of Arnold Feed & Garden Ctr (724-335-1821) and Kiski Plaza Garden Ctr. (724-845-8201) Visit their web site at www.kiskigardencenter.com Email questions to dvargokiski@comcast.net all products mentioned in this article are available at either garden center