Archive for the 'Blue Birdhouse' Category
Fairly late and third nesting reports for Eastern bluebirds were common this year, possibly due in part to the previously treacherous winter and their delayed instincts for claiming territories and nest boxes (nest starts).
Now’s a great time to check bluebird houses for repairs and remove nesting materials from the busy spring season. Although bluebirds don’t usually roost in houses… others will! Offering shelter through tough winter months for resident birds is simple if you have a house or two up already. Just clean them out and check for repairs. And a good cleaning is optimal if you have the time, a diluted bleach solution works great. Use a 1:10 ratio of bleach to water and a good scrub brush. Rinse well, let air dry and replace.
Squirrels can do a number on wood birdhouses, especially enlarging the entries to gain access. If the damage isn’t too bad yet, it’s an easy fix by adding a metal or brass portal over the entrance. It’s a good way to save your birdhouses for the birds and deter squirrels through winter. Well… some squirrels anyway!
For the past few years we’ve had a downy woodpecker who claims a bluebird house for nightly roosting, it’s actually pretty cool! House sparrows on the other hand, should be discouraged from roosting in any houses… they’re a major foe of the bluebird and most native cavity nesting birds.
If and when you do go to clean out houses, you may see droppings which will give you a clue as to who’s roosting in there. If they’re white, you can bet house sparrows are in the area. Black droppings with seeds indicates bluebirds. Let’s hope for the latter
A typical view inside blue bird houses, dad keeps a watchful eye on nestlings, while taking turns with mom bringing food to the babies.
The digs: A male bird’s skill at nest building is a sign of his suitability as a mate; he invests huge effort in the task. Males will build multiple nests to attract females, they’ll continue to build new nests until a female is happy with the construction and chooses one.
The food: Many male birds help raise their families, bringing food home to the babies. Sometimes they even have to incubate the eggs alone or take turns with the female. Male bald eagles, for example, take turns sitting on the eggs as well as bring food home to the young.
Protection: In species where both parents care for the young, the male often gathers food while the female spends more time brooding, keeping the baby birds warm, sheltered and safe from predators.
- Western Bluebirds usually breed in monogamous pairs. By the end of breeding season, most daughters disperse; most sons and the occasional daughter remain with their family for winter. In spring, the yearlings go off and nest on their own, but sometimes one or more sons stay to help their parents. Sometimes a bluebird with his own mate will help at his parents’ nest, while also feeding his own young next door. Source citation: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Happy Father’s Day to All~We salute your dedication to family!
Their migration is underway! Lucky little fliers spend their winters in the Caribbean, Central America, and the Southern-most parts of Texas and California. They’re heading as far north as Alaska and Canada, seeking mates and natural nest cavities or birdhouses to raise their young. Competition for nest sites is brutal… real estate’s tough out there!
Dwindling and disappearing habitat being a major cause, with fewer snags (dead trees) left intact. Non-native birds are also seeking the same nest spots and put up one fierce fight for the right to claim territory. European starlings and house sparrows wreak havoc on tree swallows, purple martins and bluebirds alike. Just ask any landlord, most will have sad tale or two to tell. Many people who offer martin houses or blue bird houses will discourage these aggressive species in order to protect native songbirds.
A sturdy vinyl nest box with wood roof, it’s easy to monitor and reasonably priced. You can get one for the bluebirds and one for tree swallows! Just don’t place them too close together. For best results, one in the front and one in the back is a pretty good rule of thumb.
Because all blue bird houses are not created equal, we highly encourage anyone serious about helping bluebirds to use houses approved by The North American Bluebird Society. When you see the acronym NABS… you’ll know!
Nab 10% off site-wide on all bird houses, seed feeders, birdbaths and hummingbird feeders too. And don’t forget the nesting material… we’re giving that away free with all orders through May 15th!
Use promo code MC10
Now Come on spring
Despite adverse conditions of the polar vortex and another extreme winter, bluebirds and others are on the move, searching for suitable digs to raise their young. Even though snow is covering most of the country, Mother Nature’s biological clock tells them it’s time, the calendar and number of daylight hours is what lets them know.
Early migrating birds on the Atlantic Flyway like swallows, warblers and flycatchers rely on insects as they island hop through the Caribbean onto Cuba. When making landfall along the gulf states, their usual smorgasbord of insects, flowers, fruits and berries will be be scarce. Many neo-tropicals, including hummingbirds run the risk of depleting fat reserves before they reach spring breeding grounds here in the US. Simply put, if you think the weather has been an inconvenience – it makes life miserable for wildlife as well, and many birds just won’t make it
Closer to home, over-wintering residents like bluebirds are already checking bluebird houses to claim for nesting and raising their broods. With snow on the ground and high temperatures right at freezing, you can hear birds belting out their breeding songs! If there was a way to say “wait… it’s still too cold!” we most certainly would-but then again, man is no force against nature.
Best we can do is help feathered friends along the way by offering fresh water, food, and birdhouses that are ready for nesting. If you haven’t done so already, please check your bluebird houses and remove old nests. Be sure they are secure, sturdy and ready for vacancy. If you can stomach it, live mealworms are their favorite, but suet, peanuts and sunflower hearts also offer much needed fat and proteins.
An Eastern Phoebe perches atop this bluebird house while the male checks out its interior. Phoebes won’t use these houses, but may take up residence in barn swallow nest cups if you offer them in sheltered areas around your home.
During this treacherous weather… please help birds and wildlife with supplemental feeding and a heated water source… thanks on behalf of the birds
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!