Archive for the 'Blue Birdhouse' Category
It’s been a strange season for birds in general due to the lengthy winter weather. Because some parts of the country were still seeing snow in late April and early May, mortality rates among nestlings were higher than usual. Colder than normal temps along with scarcity of natural food sources may have also accounted for some unsuccessful migrations of favorite feathered friends like hummingbirds. Many folks have reported seeing fewer of these sprites around feeders early in the season this year.
On the flip side, resident birds whose nesting season is about over, are attempting later than usual broods. Many blue bird houses which have already fledged two or three sets of nestlings are seeing their third and even fourth clutch of the season! This is all wonderful news for bluebirds… except for the searing temperatures July and August can bring.
If it’s hot outside, guaranteed it’s hotter inside a birdhouse. Babies can not regulate their body temperatures until they reach a certain age, but there are a few things you can do to help bluebirds (and others) beat the heat. First and foremost is to keep blue bird houses out of the sun, especially that baking afternoon sun. Moving a box a few feet where it’s shaded in the afternoon makes a difference in the ambient temperature inside the box. To featherless nestlings, just a few degrees can mean the difference between life or death. Birdbaths and Leaf Misters also help birds cool down during extreme heat. Parents will even shake themselves over babies dripping a bit of water to cool them.
Crazy as it sounds, there are other ways to cool down blue bird houses. Setting an ice pack or two on top of the house, attached with a large rubber band or bungee will help to cool temps inside. Recent discussions revealed a few folks putting up umbrellas to shade their nest boxes, again attached with bungee cords. Last summer we even wrapped our Gilbertson nest box with a heat shield – the kind used for car windshields! Easy to measure, and simple to cut, duct tape and rubber bands held the soft shield securely in place. The blues didn’t mind it all, and it helped their digs and babies stay cooler. Four fledged in mid-August of 2012. Stats like these mean it’s not too late to offer bluebirds housing. At the very least, you may be providing a nightly winter roost for other resident birds.
The image isn’t so great, but you can see the foil-like cover on the round blue bird house to the right. It literally took five minutes to complete this easy project, and may have helped save four babies from succumbing to horrid heat.
We have a gazillion birds around the farm in North Georgia, a bald eagle was even spotted last year. A loud ruckus with crows dive-bombing it in order to block the eagles’ access to their nest. Unfortunately much of the population is house sparrows, who compete (fiercely) with native songbirds for nesting cavities.
You won’t find any blue bird birdhouses around the farm, or any birdhouses for that matter, but there’s certainly no shortage of nest sites and activity! Between the swallows and house sparrows around the three barns, and mockingbirds’ thick-stick nests in the crepe myrtles out front, that leaves about 400 acres of pure, natural habitat. Oh, and the heron, he loves to fly out of the ditch when folks are trail riding in the back. It spooks the horses every time… and he knows this (little fart!) A person could literally get a great start their bird list right here!
With some of the old wooden fencing still intact, the posts have deteriorated over time, and these bluebird chicks seem perfectly at home in one of those posts. If you catch the angle of that photo, you can see it was taken from above… No roof! What if it rains, and what about storms? We were like nervous mothers with concern for the babies. But a moms’ instinct is usually right on… four nestlings, and four successful fledges! You know, it did rain and it did storm on those babies, so I guess natural bird houses with no roof work too! But I still wouldn’t recommend it!
It really wouldn’t behoove any of the birds to install nest boxes due to the sheer numbers of house sparrows on the property. There would be more fatalities than fledges as far as bluebirds, and we don’t need to encourage the house sparrows! In most of suburbia there is indeed a shortage of natural nest cavities. No rotted fence posts, very few dead trees, and less of the mature (we’re talking like one hundred year old) trees. Birdhouses really do help cavity-dwellers thrive and flourish. Are there some do’s and don’ts? Sure, but one only learns by doing, and everyone who accommodates and enjoys backyard birds started somewhere.
I did a painting of “the back 40″ a few years ago, showing the old hay barn and shop. Tons of natural nest cavities and bird activity around this place!
Although some days it doesn’t feel like it, spring is just about here. Buds forming on trees are beginning to unfold, while spring bulbs continue sprouting their deep green foliage. In the Southeast, many bluebirds never left for the winter. With accommodations like ours… why would they? Several heated baths and live mealworms fed daily are a pretty good gig for them.
Nest one spotted in the Gilbertson yesterday, and lots of wing-tipping and clamoring over other bluebird houses on the property. This is a good sign that actual egg-laying isn’t too far off. The wing-tipping is a hoot to watch, it’s the male who does this to attract a mate. Each time he waves a wing as if to say “hey… look at me over here, and look at this great nest box!”
Prior to winter, pine shavings were added to all birdhouses around the property. Providing warmth and a decent roost for cold nights and wet freezing days too – the shavings were removed two weeks ago. Each house was inspected for breakage, cracks and squirrel damage. Two metal portals were added to entrances where squirrels had enlarged the hole to gain access. Little boogers even got their own house last fall! Many times you can salvage bluebird houses or any birdhouse where squirrels have chewed the entrance. As long as the damage isn’t too far gone, a metal predator guard, or portal may be attached over the hole.
Typically bluebirds may have two to three broods per season. If conditions are perfect (habitat and weather) you may even see four broods from the same parents! But it’s always the second brood that’s most enjoyable to watch. Juveniles instinctively help raise fledgelings, teaching them where the food is and even helping to feed them. Talk about family ties!
Most bluebird houses are North American Bluebird Society Approved (NABS) will be wood, recycled plastic or vinyl. Other materials are used, but these houses usually are not “approved”. That’s not to say they can’t host a successful brood… just maybe not the best choice? Of most importance, is the distance from the entrance to the floor. If not at least five to six inches, predators may find easy targets. Since many Eastern bluebirds use pine straw to build nests, this raises the chicks even closer to the entrance, so distance is best here. Open space is another prerequisite for hosting bluebirds. Due to their nature of hunting insects, low grasses and natural perches are favored. And of course, the fresh water. A birdbath of any kind will entice bluebirds and others to your place in no time!
Should you decide to try offering live meal worms this year, there’s a simple supplement to greatly help females with the egg-laying process. Calcium carbonate will help prevent egg binding. A situation that’s usually fatal, it can happen if too many worms are consumed, as they are calcium-depleting. For some reason, the egg does not pass through the duct properly, it gets stuck, resulting in probable death. You can still offer worms, just not too many at a time, or maybe consider adding the powdered calcium carbonate supplement as a preventative measure.
A few bluebird houses we’ve had success with (from L to R) The Gilbertson, NABS Approved Vinyl House, and the very cool Mango Wood Natural Bluebird House. We can assure, a bluebird would be happy to call any one of these “home sweet home”
Dubbed “the Gilbertson Nest Box” it might just resemble a coffee can at first glimpse. The shape is definitely similar, although the birch appearance is much more aesthetic. Actually, there’s a lot more to these bluebird houses than meets the eye!
Not only North American Bluebird Society (NABBS) Approved, these unique style houses are bluebird-approved too… big time! The birch-like log is PVC, so it outlasts most wooden boxes. Painted darker on the inside, it must resemble a natural nest cavity for bluebirds? The overhang roof helps thwart some predators, and the elements. A good 6-inch depth from entrance to floor helps protect nestlings from bully bird attacks. And, they’ve got to be some of the easiest birdhouses to install too. Half-inch conduit fits right in the hole on the back portion of the roof. Placing 8-10 inches in the ground keeps these light-weight bluebird houses sturdy.
A baffle is suggested to further protect nestlings from ground predators, and one can be made fairly easily and inexpensively too. We did one from 4-inch diameter PVC pipe. An end cap is needed, along with a radiator or hose clamp on the pole to secure the baffle. Some hunter green spray paint makes it not only effective, but good looking as well.
The same kind of baffle may be constructed using stove pipe, and likely for even less cost. The important thing is that it wobbles (making it harder for critters to climb) and the length should be at least three feet.
Ok, back to the bluebird house: If you’re one who monitors the progress from egg-laying through hatching, and fledging, the Gilbertson is a tad different. After the first few times you get the hang of it and it’s actually fun to be able to look down and see everyone in full view. (But don’t do this too close to fledge time, you could cause a premature take-off). A simple squeeze between thumb and forefinger with both hands (right below the roof) elongates the PVC, and the house pops right off the two screw heads that securely hold it in place. Sounds weird? Maybe… but it’s pretty ingenious!
Of all the bluebird houses around our property, the Gilbertson, for some reason is the first to see nest building activity each spring. This past season, it hosted three successful broods and 16 fledgelings! Pretty good for one little coffee-can looking nest box! So these bluebird houses are not only NABBS Approved… they’re definitely bluebird approved too!
P.S. Fall is the perfect time to install birdhouses! Even though it will be months before anyone begins to nest, places for roosting are equally important for resident birds. We do see some snow and frigid winters here in North Georgia, but bluebirds still stick around if the habitat is suitable. We find that heated baths, daily mealworms, and roosting spots keep them fat and happy around our place
Just ironic that this old blue bird house had a predator guard on the entrance! Of no use to any bird now, it’s downright dangerous for any nestlings. Wide open to predators, though I’ve probably discarded a fine squirrel home Because it was attached to a tree, surrounded by brush and limbs, it wasn’t exactly bluebird real estate. Someone had nested in there, the thick moss nest was likely built by a Titmouse, Nuthatch or Carolina Wren.
Now is the time to check blue bird houses (and all nest boxes) for repairs and nest removal. They’ll still be a welcomed environment during the off-season! As swell roosting spots for lots of feathered friends… through fall and winter. Adding shavings to your houses helps to insulate them, but always opt for pine, as cedar shavings can cause irritation.
Be sure to discard any nests in the trash, as predators will be attracted to them. Grabbing them with a plastic bag (from the grocery store) is pretty quick & easy. It’s a good idea to clean and disinfect blue bird houses to rid them of mites or other pests. A solution of bleach and water does the trick well, at a ratio of 1:10. Scrub with a hard-bristle brush, rinse well, and let air-dry.
As far as the rotted house pictured? It was headed for the trash, but second thoughts say leave it for the squirrels!
If you haven’t done so already, check for old nests in bluebird houses (and other nest boxes too). Best to wear gloves for this chore, and dispose of the nest away from the birdhouse as old nests will attract predators. Clean the box with a mild bleach/water solution (1:10). Scrub, rinse well with water, and let dry in the sun.
The NABS reference above? It stands for the North American Bluebird Society, who gives their approval on certain bluebird houses. The houses must meet specific criteria that’s beneficial to hosting successful bluebird broods and fledges. This is elementary stuff for serious blue-birders, but so many of us are novices and we all have to start somewhere! If you’ve been unsuccessful in enticing bluebirds to your yard, there are lots of great suggestions, and some fantastic information at www.sialis.org. We would strongly recommend this well organized and informative site for anyone interested in hosting bluebirds.
Bluebird houses will differ for the Eastern and Mountain/Western Bluebird, although Eastern Bluebirds may use a Mountain Bluebird House. Eastern Blues require a 1-1/2 inch diameter hole, where as Mountain/Western Blues require a 1-9/16 inch entrance. This is where some of NABS Approval comes into play because an entrance that is 1-5/8 inch, will allow Starlings to enter the box, but Starlings can not enter through a 1-9/16 inch hole. Now who would know that? Floor size (4×4 for Eastern Blues, and 5×5 for Western/Mountain Blues) and ventilation are some other criteria for approval by NABS. A predator guard at the entrance of your bluebird house always helps to ensure successful fledges, as does a baffle if the house is pole or post-mounted.
Water, food, and potential nesting spots are key to enticing these fantastic birds! Bluebirds prefer open area for their hunting style (swooping to catch insets), so if your yard is heavily wooded, chance are Bluebirds won’t find it suitable… but other birds will. Chickadees and Nuthatches are already scouting nest boxes and building nests too. We just tried put up one of those side-entry houses supposedly meant for Nuthatches… we’ll see how that goes soon enough.
Spring has sprung early this year, so get in the yard and help local birds thrive!
Because of the mild winter, everything “spring” is happening early. Budding trees are flowering and bulbs are blooming, this means nesting season is underway! And we’ve been slammed with orders, not to mention a spring newsletter… yikes! So this guest post is by my room mate, Tango Dressage, kindly helping out
Watching blue bird houses is starting early! I only know this because every day my roommate, Beth (The Birdhouse Chick) grabs her binoculars and looks with anticipation to the blue bird houses to check for signs of nesting. It’s a yearly ritual that she has fostered by maintaining blue bird houses and feeders, and providing live worms (yes, we have worms in our refrigerator) to attract them to the yard.
It’s not just the bluebirds though, most all wild birds are welcomed and catered to. The bins on the screened porch store several different types of seeds, nuts, and treats for every avian diet. Feeders are cleaned and filled daily (she’s got it down to a science). Several houses built for the needs of different birds are and maintained to ensure good nest sites too. The squirrels even have their own area with corn bungees. Fresh water is abundant, with heated baths for winter, and these cool leaf misters for hot summer days, it looks like a bird spa!
Until I moved here I knew little to nothing about birds. After three years, Beth’s passion for birds and caring for animals has given me a new perspective on her. I thought she was crazy opening an online birdhouse boutique before I really knew her. After seeing how passionate and knowledgeable about birds she really is, I would think she was crazy not to!
When you call you are not dealing with a clerk, every order is checked for quality, packed with care and any questions you have answered enthusiastically by someone that really cares that every product is durable and appropriate for your needs. I guess what I’m getting to is that when you deal with thebirdhousechick.com you’re not dealing with a “big company” or “entity” You’re dealing direct with the real birdhouse chick.
At first glance, the aged, rustic appearance of these bluebird houses might indicate less than stellar quality…. but looks can be deceiving! Hand painted in rich, cool hues, these solid cypress bluebird houses are top notch – and your bluebirds will think so too.
With a 1.5-inch entrance, and proper ventilation in the roof, they’re sized for Eastern Bluebirds with features to keep nests safe and dry. The cypress shingled roof with copper accent is both handsome and functional, deterring water by directing rain run-off. A latched, locking front door allows viewing of nest progress and simple clean-out too. Meant to be post-mounted, these bluebird houses compliment any landscape naturally with style and function.
Although this nesting season is over, one may find bluebirds flitting in and out of nest boxes. Perhaps to scout for winter roosting spots should they decide to stick around and brave winter weather. In North Georgia, bluebirds have over-wintered for several years in our yard. Heated baths and a steady supply of suet and mealworms seem to keep them happy. Three successful broods fledged this past season… and so hoping to see them soon!
Back in July, the first fledges this Bluebird Monitor saw happened to be a rare teal shade like their mother. Two months later, Donna captured some great photos, showing what the juveniles looked like in September.
Although still molting, their color is phenomenal! While the brilliant blue is most common, rich violet-blue colored bluebirds have frequented our No. Georgia yard in the past. Seriously wondering why their color is so different… maybe they grew up up in teal blue bird houses? Likely not, but there’s got to be some pretty special gene that’s responsible for this gorgeous hue! And here’s the other juvenile from the same brood.
(Washington, D.C. , August 11, 2011) A five-year cooperative effort involving several organizations has succeeded in returning the Western Bluebird to Washington’s San Juan Islands. The bird had historically inhabited the islands, but changing land use practices and a paucity of nesting sites meant the species had not nested there for over 40 years.
Over the course of the five-year project, biologists with the Western Bluebird Reintroduction Project captured and translocated 45 breeding pairs of Western Bluebirds from an expanding population at Fort Lewis Military installation, Washington, and another four pairs from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The birds were kept in aviaries on San Juan Island prior to release to acclimate them to their new surroundings.
One pair of translocated birds nested in the first year, and in each succeeding year the nesting population size has increased. Over the five years, 212 fledglings were produced. Most encouragingly, some of those fledged birds have returned each year and are now part of the breeding population, giving hope that the population will be able to sustain itself into the future.
“It is gratifying to have the hard work of so many people bear fruit with the result that we now see these birds coming back to an area they had once called home. This year, the islands are home to 15 breeding pairs of Western Bluebirds that fledged 74 birds,” said Bob Altman, project leader with American Bird Conservancy. “We are very optimistic about the future of this population,” he said.
The project collaborators included American Bird Conservancy, Fort Lewis Military Installation, Ecostudies Institute, San Juan Preservation Trust, San Juan Islands Audubon Society, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and The Nature Conservancy of Washington.
Thirty birds returned to the San Juan Islands this year. Ten were translocated birds from previous years, 18 were fledged from previous years, and two were of undetermined origin. The 15 pairs of birds built 25 nests, of which 14 were successful.
“This year saw record breaking cool, wet weather through June, meaning everything, including bluebird nesting, was about three to four weeks behind. This resulted in reduced productivity from the previous year. House Sparrows also caused three or four nesting failures, which is something we may need to address in coming years,” Altman said.
The project is now moving into a two-year monitoring phase to determine the stability and growth of the population, and the need for future population management.
“We are very pleased to have achieved our goal of establishing a breeding population, however, 15 pairs is by no means a large enough population to be considered secure, so we are exploring ways to enhance it beyond the initial five-year period,” he said.
One potential enhancement is Western Bluebird translocations in nearby British Columbia that may be starting next year. The San Juan Islands are only 20-25 miles as the bluebird flies from the proposed release site on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, and it is likely that the continuation of translocations in British Columbia will help to sustain the San Juan Islands population in the future.
In tandem with the translocations, project partners also are working to conserve the oak-prairie ecosystem that the birds depend on. Toward that end, the San Juan Preservation Trust made a key prairie-oak land acquisition – 120 acres in the center of the San Juan Valley- which hosts two nesting pairs of bluebirds and is a primary location at which flocks of bluebirds congregate during the post-breeding season. In addition, approximately 600 nest boxes have been put up on the islands to provide additional nesting opportunities for the returning birds.
Altman said that “the project would not have been possible without the help of numerous people on the San Juan Islands, who hosted aviaries and nest boxes on their properties, helped construct nest boxes and move aviaries, provided materials and project equipment, and helped monitor nest boxes and look for released birds. Further, he added “I don’t know of any other bird reintroduction project that relied completely on so many private landowners”.