Should It Stay or Should it Go?

Steve Whiteby Steve White
Weirs Times Contributing Writer

As we approach the nesting season for wild birds, many questions arise regarding nest boxes. Do all birds use bird houses? If not, why do birds build nests exposed to weather and predators?
Truth be told, few birds will use a nest box to raise their young. To a wild bird’s mind, an enclosed box with only one hole is a trap. A predator can easily raid an occupied box using that single hole while parents and young have no means of escape. Birds that use nest boxes are typically bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, titmice, sparrows and swallows. There are large birds such as wood ducks that also use a nest box, but they are commonly found in marshlands or near an open body of water. Wrens are the only species of wild birds that prefer their nest boxes hanging rather than post mounting. These particular winged acrobats subscribe to the theory that predators have a much more difficult time raiding a smaller, mobile abode.
The species of wild birds that avail themselves of nest boxes are referred to as clinging birds. These small birds have developed a preferred method of entering a bird house using only the edge of the entrance holes. Clinging birds can easily feed from bird feeders that do not use perches or portals, such as wire-clad feeders. Woodpeckers are the only species of wild birds that excavate holes in trees for nesting. Other wild bird species will gladly use an abandoned hole in trees to raise their own young. Nature does not provide perches outside tree cavities for very good reasons.
Perches on bird houses provide a resting place for predators such as large birds, chipmunks and squirrels as they enlarge the entrance holes and raid nest boxes. Since clinging birds do not require perches to enter nest boxes, one should not use or build a bird house with perches.
Old nests should be removed from bird houses before each nesting season begins. Many wild birds will not start a new nest inside a bird house if they see an existing nest, thinking the dwelling has been spoken for. Also, old nesting material may contain mites and microbes that will attach themselves to hatchlings, causing fatal results. It is best to remove the old nests and place them in your trash for complete removal. If you simply deposit the old nest on the ground below the bird house, birds may attempt to reuse the material in the new nest, defeating the purpose of your efforts.
Natural or earth-tone colors work best on nest boxes. Wild bird parents wish to blend in with the local environment for the safety of their young. Brilliant colors only draw unwanted attention to bird houses and may be the deciding factor in choosing not to build a nest.
Enjoy your birds!

Wild Bird Depot is located on Rt 11 in Gilford, NH. Steve White is a contributing author in major publications, a guest lecturer at major conventions in Atlanta and St. Louis as well as the host of WEZS 1350AM radio show “Bird Calls” with Lakes Region Newsday @ 8:30AM. Wild Bird Depot has donated over $5,000 to local rehabilitators and local nature centers since 1996. Be sure to check out our blog “Bird Droppings” via our website Like us on Facebook for great contests and prizes.

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