Archive for the 'Bluebird House' Category
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.
This letter to the editor appeared in The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN., a few days ago. We thought it might be of interest to those who are newer to backyard birding and so fascinated with all their feathered visitors. Because all songs are not always good ones, we believed this post was in order, especially when adding bluebird houses around your yard.
“Attracting the right birds takes research, effort
Eight years ago, when my husband and I moved to the Spencerville-Leo country area, I decided to put out a birdhouse. Soon our birdhouse was occupied by a pair of bluebirds and five blue eggs. I thought how easy and why was attracting bluebirds thought to be such a hard task? Unfortunately, I discovered the answer. The main problems for bluebirds are house sparrows.
House sparrows are extremely destructive to American species of birds. House sparrows make a point of taking over nesting sites. Sparrows often and viciously take over nesting boxes inhabited by our American species. They trap adult birds in their nesting boxes and kill adult birds by pecking the skulls. Sadly, sparrows most notoriously attack the baby birds also. Sadly, in one summer I have lost as many as 11 bluebirds, mostly attributable to the sparrow and another non-native American bird, the starling.
If you are thinking about feeding birds or housing birds in your backyard, please be aware of what types of birds you bring into your area. Monitor your nesting boxes often to make sure you are attracting the birds you desire.
Now I feel like I’m starting over attracting bluebirds, but they are well worth the effort. As for my personal opinion toward house sparrows, they are nothing but trouble.
LAURA McCANN Spencerville”
Not all sparrows are bad, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with their identification by their song and plumage. Simply do a search for the ill-willed, non-native bird, and images with tons of resources will appear. Note the differences in male, female and juvenile birds as well. If you are serious about attracting bluebirds to your place, this information will serve you and the birds very well!
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.
In the Bluebird Monitor’s forum, there are reports of the first eggs laid in a Florida nest box. Well, this is just exciting news for anyone who’s into Bluebirds because it means that it won’t be too long before the blues are nesting further and further North!
Although Bluebird houses run the gamut from basic wooden box and recycled plastics, to more elaborate, and decorative houses, an important aspect to look for is approval by The North American Bluebird Society (NABS). Maybe you’ve seen that acronym before, and wondered what’s a NABS? Well, that’s who they are, and their website provides great information on attracting and housing Bluebirds.
If you’ve ever considered it, but haven’t yet tried… please do! These little brilliant blue birds are amazing, and so family-oriented that it’s just plain cool to have a group in your yard. You needn’t spend a lot either, bluebird bird house kits are available, and some are even NABS Approved. Although it’s difficult to spot in this photo of our yard, look in the upper right corner and you’ll see a bluebird bird house kit that’s been in business for years. It’s mounted on a simple piece of conduit, and does have a baffle added for protection from predators. A tad taller than most recommended heights (5 to 6 feet from the ground), our birds seem to like it just fine. This bird house kit actually fledged three groups of nestlings last season. In the photo it appears to be near the treeline in back, but in reality it stands in open space. That’s another requirement for bluebirds to nest – some open space (which doesn’t cost anything at all).
A fantastic reference for all things Bluebird-related is a website called Sialis. I think it’s actually the Latin term for Blue Bird? Virtually any question concerning Bluebirds (and some other cavity nesters) may be found here. It’s well organized and referenced in plain English, so even the novice blue-birder walks away with useful information to benefit our precious “Blues”.
Please help house the birds!