Posts Tagged ‘nest box’

Join Nestwatch and Help Nesting Birds

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017
Join Nestwatch and Help Nesting Birds

Nobody knows better than you what goes on in the nests in your backyard. If you are curious about the birds nesting in your yard and pay particular attention to

Photo Credit: Stan Tekeila

them, Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great project called Nestwatch that can use your help. They have a list of birds which include Black-capped Chickadee, House Wren, House Finch, Carolina Chickadee, Mourning Dove and many others. Chances are at least one of these birds is nesting in your yard! If you are someone who regularly checks nestboxes, this might be the perfect project for you to take the info you discover about how many eggs, when they are laid, nest success, etc., and send it to Cornell. They use this information to get a better picture of the success and failure rates of nests and nesting habits of different species.

Information like this is particularly important as birds are a barometer for what’s going on in our environment. So, check it out and see if you might become someone who helps backyard birds even more than you do by just sending in the information you already have. It’s a great project to do with kids as well, as they will have the chance to watch and record nesting from start to fledging. And who wouldn’t want to do that?

Nestcams and a Manikam!

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

Cornell Lab of Ornithology Manakam
This month we have nestcams and a cool manakin lek-cam!

If you have never seen manakins displaying, check out this amazing live cam that, if you are lucky, will have Lance-tailed Manakins displaying at their lek. Unlike a nestcam, the action will be sporadic, but don’t miss seeing these amazing little birds displaying for mates in Panama.

Barred Owl, Indiana  – there are eggs!
Bermuda Cahow Bermuda – and there is a super-fluffy chick!

Bald Eagle, Iowa – new chick!

Laysan Albatross, Hawaii – Kalama the fluffy chick is getting bigger!

Purple Martins Are Coming Your Way!

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017
Purple Martins are Coming – Be Ready!

Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel

Purple Martins are on their way north and looking for nesting sites. With their enchanting song and effective insect removal efforts – especially when there are chicks in the summer – these birds are a delight to have around. And if you want to help birds, Purple Martins are a needy species.  These social birds nest in communities, and their natural nesting sites are in dead-wood tree and cacti cavities.  But these sites are becoming very difficult to find and now east of the Rockies, they are forced to rely entirely on human-provided housing.  Once the first birds arrive at their nesting sites, they will begin searching for the right spot, or return to last year’s good one, and begin nest building within a few weeks of arrival.

With Purple Martins, timing is everything.  It’s essential to put the house or gourds up just after the scouts arrive as they are looking for nesting sites.  Any earlier, and sparrows will move in.  Too late, and the martins will have moved on.

Purple Martins like the safety that human activity brings, so you can situate your martin house not too far from your own home, with about a 30 foot radius of open area at the base of the house so the birds can see predators easily.  To get a better sense of timing, checkout the Purple Martin Scout Arrival Study.  You can even see where Purple Martins have been reported near you or on their way.
For any info you might want about these fast flying insectivores, visit where you can find tips on hosting a successful Purple Martin colony.

Your Fall Backyard Tuneup

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016
Your Fall Backyard Tuneup
In fall, birds’ needs start changing. The bird houses you setjuvenile_cardinal up in spring and which saw a lot of activity are now vacant. Pressure to secure food for hungry mouths in the nest has subsided, and now many birds are bulking up for migration. To create a friendly backyard for migrators and help your year-round residents, here are a few things you can do now.

  • Once all your nestboxes are vacant, clean them out. Remove the nests, and clean the houses with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts of water — making sure you rinse them thoroughly afterwards, and let them dry completely open in the sun. For more info on cleaning out houses, click here.  You can store them once they are dry, but if you live in a place which gets cold in winter, unless you are putting up roost boxes later, some birds may find the nest boxes to be a needed refuge during the coldest times.
    • Clean your birdfeeders! These need to be cleaned often to keep bacteria from spreading to the birds. You can use the same 1:9 /bleach:water solution as for the houses, then rinse them thoroughly and leave to dry outside. Do not put seed in them until they are totally dry and have had time for the bleach to evaporate.
    • Now fill those feeders! Migrating birds need the energy from fresh seeds.  So, keep your feeders filled and leave them in the same spot for the winter for local residents to easily find food when they need it.
    • If you have native wildflowers, you can collect the seeds now and store them in a cool place in a paper bag over the winter to be planted in the spring. If you prefer, many of them can be scattered in your native plant meadow in late fall to take advantage of  freezing in winter and the opportunity for an early sprouting.
    • Now is a great time to get native trees and some shrubs in place so they can establish before winter. Native trees, plants and shrubs are essential to making your backyard a haven for birds and other wildlife as they attract the right insects and provide the right natural food for wild birds and butterflies in the area. Don’t miss the opportunity to add a few more fruiting shrubs the birds can enjoy all winter.

    More Nestcams!

    Friday, May 27th, 2016
    More Nestcams!


    ‘Tis the season!
    Birds are still nesting, and this month, there are a few new nestcams including

    Atlantic Puffins, Arctic Terns, Allen’s Hummingbird, Peregrine Falcons, Osprey and Double-crested Cormorants.


    NEW nests with lots of chicks and behavior to watch!

    CATCH UP on what’s happening with the chicks:

    More Nestcams!

    Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
    More Nestcams
    We can never get enough of nestcams! Nesting season continues with new great views of nesting condors, lots of Great-horned Owlets, and this nest of seven seriously adorable Long-eared Owlets.

    NEW nests with lots of chicks to watch!

    CATCH UP on what’s happening with the chicks:


    Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016
    It’s that time of year again!allens_hummingbird_nestcam_explore
    Get a front row seat and the best view of these early nesters from across the US and  Hawaii  — hummingbirds, albatross and some very cool raptors:

    Building Bird Nest Boxes

    Saturday, March 28th, 2009

    Spring is a time when lots of people turn their attention to creating nest boxes for breeding birds. Many birds use next boxes – from wrens to owls – and as we lose nesting habitat, nest boxes create an opportunity that might otherwise be lost for some birds to find a safe place to raise their young. It’s fun to build your own nest box but often the plans available to work from don’t take into consideration the health and safety of the birds. I got a call this morning from an artist friend of mine who has decided to try her hand at making a bluebird house. I know that whatever she makes will be gorgeous and she is working from plans so that the birds have the right size cavity and ventilation. But nowhere on her plans does it give advice about paint or types of wood to use, and there are no tips on features that make life better for the birds inhabiting the box.

    She initially called me to find out what kind of paint to use to attract bluebirds – were they sensitive to color? It’s a great question, and I don’t know the answer. While I am sure there are some birds which show color sensitivity one way or the other to nesting sites (Bowerbirds have a preference for different specifically colored objects in their bowers as an example), it gave me the chance to talk a little to her about using paint on the house. Birds are very sensitive to chemicals and since they weigh ounces or even grams, the introduction of any chemicals can be harmful to them if not fatal. I have been told that a good rule of thumb is not to paint the box at all. But that if you want to paint the outside of the birdhouse, use whatever paint you might use to paint a children’s toy – non-toxic is key here. Even though the interior may be unpainted, the chemicals can leach through or in the case of gases, just pass right through the wood into the nesting chamber.

    I have also been told never to use preserved or pressure treated wood for bird houses (or much else, either) because it is preserved with arsenic (not in much use any longer) or copper, and this could prove fatal to the birds. Using pressure treated wood for any use should give us pause as the chemicals in the wood may leach into the environment, and both arsenic and copper can be harmful to aquatic as well as other creatures – humans included.

    Another rule of thumb when building your birdhouse is not to provide perches at the entryway of the nest box as it gives predators a considerable advantage in gaining access to the hole and the babies inside. And you can help the fledglings gain access to the outside by roughening up the inside of the box so they can get a good foothold to climb out.

    There are many resources on the internet with advice on building nest boxes, so if you are so inclined you can check around and find lots of info. This guide may be helpful in that it has features, dimensions and suggestions for things to think about when building and placing a nest box:

    The nest boxes our family has built tend to be pretty basic but beloved by several types of birds as evidenced by this sparrow feeding her chick. This has been a very successful nest box for many years, although in all fairness, sparrows are not terribly difficult to please.I am looking forward to seeing what creative design my friend comes up with for her first bluebird box. After finding out that Bluebirds prefer to have a choice between several boxes before they settle on one, maybe she will build a few and set them all out for inspection. Bluebirds are picky, but they do like nest boxes. And, if you are lucky enough to build one that suits the peculiarities of a pair of bluebirds in your area, you can have a great view of these gorgeous birds raising their family.


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