A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO ATTRACTING SONGBIRDSWild Birds 101 »
CHAPTER 5: Houses and Nesting
Provide Bird Housing
Some birds prefer to nest in houses or nesting boxes – these can include bluebirds, wrens, chickadees, sparrows and other small birds. Just like when choosing food, it’s important to accommodate the preferences of the birds in your area. Here are four factors to consider about bird houses:
Different birds prefer different shapes and sizes of houses. The entrance size and location is also an important factor. The opening should be just big enough for your resident bird of choice to fit through and be the proper height from the floor of the house.
2. Materials and Colors.
Materials are also a significant factor in choosing the right bird house. For optimum success, bird houses should be made of wood. Other available materials, such as plastic and metal can get too hot, causing harm to the birds. Wood allows moisture and heat to escape, protecting the young birds living inside the house. In addition, birds generally prefer bird houses that are natural colors or just stained. Bright colors are too noticeable to predators.
3. Other Features
Though it has become a bit of a novelty, avoid bird houses that have a perch. Birds don’t need perches to enter the house, so the perches only make it simpler for predators or larger birds to bother the inhabitants. One thing you do want to look for in a bird house is a hinge or a removable section. The easier it is to open the house, the easier it is to clean as needed.
As mentioned above, predators can cause major problems for your feathered residents. Houses should be placed in areas that cannot be easily accessed by cats and other predators. Just as with house sizes, birds may prefer different locations for their homes as well. Some birds may prefer houses out in the open, while others such as bluebirds like to be close to cover of trees and shrubs.
Take a look at this simple reference from Audubon for some species-specific guidelines on bird houses.
Encourage Nesting Sites
For the birds that will not nest in bird houses or nesting boxes, it’s important to provide materials to encourage long-term nesting. Birds such as Northern Cardinals and American Robins prefer to nest in trees and shrubs and require materials to build their own nests. If songbirds are able to find the materials and trees or shrubs they prefer, they are much more likely to nest in your backyard.
Ensure that your yard features natural sources for materials such as pine needles, small twigs, grass clippings, moss, mud and milkweed. You can also deliver other raw materials to birds by hanging the scraps from nearby trees or placing them in baskets in a centralized location. Hair, wool, cloth strips and string or yarn are all popular household materials that birds like to use in their nests.
Even if your birds use houses to nest, they still require materials to build the nest itself. Avoid ridding your yard of the materials that your local birds enjoy.
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