Ever check a birdhouse only to be disappointed in finding a wasp’s nest instead of bird’s nest? It happens all the time as conditions are also perfect for housing the pesky insects. Especially inside wooden houses, they love to build their honeycomb structures and thrive.
You can actually guard against hornet and wasp invasion, and keep those decorative bird houses reserved for birds only. The secret weapon is soap! Yes, plain old simple bar soap. Take a dry bar of soap and rub it on the underside of the roof inside the bird house. This is where most nests are found. Wasps can not (or will not) cling to a surface that has been “soaped”. They’ll also build nests on the vertical walls of the house, but usually near the top. These areas should also have the dry soap applied. It will not harm birds, nor hinder the nesting process.
Granted you’ve got to be able to get your hand inside the house to do this, and some decorative bird houses may not allow that option. These fun ceramic birdhouses actually separate so you can get to the inside should the need arise. When choosing any birdhouse, it’s best to make sure it’s a functional one if you’d like to entice feathered friends to nest. Always look for some type of clean-out so you can remove old nests, ventilation is important too. The house will be more bird-friendly if the entrance is situated somewhat toward the top portion as well. This helps protect nestlings from predator’s reach.
Nesting season is here, we found four eggs in one of our bluebird houses today! It won’t be long before chickadees, titmice, warblers and all the other cavity-dwelling birds start seeking digs to raise their young. If you’ve already got bird houses in your yard, it’s best to check for old nests and remove them. A plastic bag works great, just grab the nest and turn the bag inside out, otherwise, gloves are recommended.
Make decorative bird houses available for your beaked buddies this season… and they’ll thank you for housing the birds! Oh, and don’t forget the soap if wasps or hornets are a problem around your yard.
Finally… Welcome spring 🙂
Just a great story by Keith Kridler of Mt. Pleasant, Texas
Years ago (late 1970’s before mealworms) one of my bluebirders Edith Gingles fed a family of bluebirds everyday on her back porch. She fed all sorts of birds but kept a sling shot with a “three cornered rock” handy for the creatures that would harm her chosen feathered friends. English Sparrows and squirrels would have to duck and dodger her fury, there were no squirrel proof bird feeders. For those who don’t know about a three cornered rock, no matter which side you got smacked with you got hit with a “sharp side” of those rocks.
I guess Edith was 70 or older when she stole one of my road side boxes I had put up about 1/4 mile from her home. I knew because she put it on the power pole right beside her trailer house just about 50 feet off of the road….I replaced the box up the road again and the next week she had two boxes up now in her back yard……Next week she stole the third replacement nesting box……That one was “pretty” and it ended up on her back porch railing about 6 feet from her door…..
I finally stopped to visit with the “nest box thieves” as this was a “new” road for me and I was there for a little over two hours enjoying milk and homemade cookies and hearing stories about East Texas back before asphalt roads and before Model T’s showed up. Although I had stopped to tell them that bluebirds would NOT nest on their back porch, we watched “her” baby blues finish off building a nest in that box just a few feet away from us as I made a whole tray of soft oat meal cookies disappear. It probably would make a good book as these visits went on till she turned 90 or so and moved to town when the strip mine coal company made it out north of town and her coal went to the big boilers.
Anyway she taught me all about feeding bluebirds during our “cold winters”. (We froze at 32*F in the last hour it will be 68*F tomorrow for my bluebirds, but my brother in Ohio is at 2*F right now!)
Favorite food for bluebirds was fresh baked cornbread with extra sugar and extra lard and or extra butter within the mix. They got this everyday during the winter and this did NOT come out of some mix.
She would add any type of chopped nuts, she would crumble up the mix while it was still warm then add the nuts just before she went outside. Raisins were really cheap back then and she added a handful on top or beside the mix.
Bluebirds REALLY liked ANY cooked meat, especially fatty beef roast, finely chopped with small bits of fat separate but also finely chopped. They liked shredded chicken and or poultry, especially the fatty old laying hens you once could buy for “stew hens”. Shred the meat really fine, pour hot grease over the dryer cuts of pieces, chill it to solidify the grease and set it out after stirring it up a bit to break up the smaller flakes of chicken.
She found that bluebirds liked MANY vegetables IF you added butter and or shredded cheese to them. Cauliflower, cooked in a cream gravy, add a couple of pats of butter, hand grate some cheddar cheese and set out this mixture all finely chopped and the bluebirds LOVED this.
Ditto for old mashed potatoes, add in a little lard, butter and or bits of meat and they would also eat these.
Of course they liked cooked rolled oats and or grits, Cream of Wheat to Yankees, but again either topped with chilled, skimmed off grease or add some lard or butter to the dish.
In the summer she picked up “old” blueberries, blackberries and other fruits at the local store, chopped these up, dried them on window screens up on top of her metal back porch roof and then froze them for use in the winter. Extras ended up as “bluebird” food.
She would sit out on the back deck, all wrapped up as flocks of birds came and ate various foods all around her. So she learned just how to feed all of the various backyard birds and which recipes they liked the best.
She was REALLY pissed when at 80 the hospital got “new younger” doctors and told her that they would no longer accept “volunteers” at the hospital once they reached 80. Of course she had been a nurse for longer than ANY on the hospital board had been alive. It was their loss and the birds gain as she would spend the next 10 years out “nursing” and observing her birds. She continued to “nurse” her friends at the various “old folks” homes, until she had to move in also.
Anyway, every winter storm I think about all of the folks who are taking better care and or worrying more about “their” birds than they are about their own health and or diet! Keith Kridler
Oh… how we can relate to this 🙂
Now there’s a pretty good smorgasbord going on in our yard, with suet, peanuts, mealworms, even the squirrels get theirs as all bird feeders have baffles to keep them at bay. But sunflower hearts, cardinal and finch mix? Omg… going through this seed like water, and spending more on seed than groceries!
Winter’s been a bit longer and colder than last year, but this is supposed to be spring right? Wrong – central IL just saw 5 inches of the white stuff today. Bluebirds who have started laying eggs will loose the clutch if incubation has not yet begun.
Large Hopper Bird Feeders are being filled at the rate of ridiculousness, and positively, squirrels aren’t raiding them! Big double hoppers like this are being emptied twice a week, we’ve never seen birds so ravenous. Raging hormones and gearing up for nesting couldn’t possibly be the cause? More birds? Maybe they’ve told all their friends of a great new restaurant? But it’s not just our yard, reports from our local feed store say it’s been a fantastic seed-selling season, more so than any other they can recall.
This kind of seed’s not cheap either. Past droughts and fuel costs have caused most birdseed to skyrocket in cost. While searching Craigslist recently a person was bartering with food stamps. Hmmm… wonder if anyone would take food stamps as payment for bird seed?
Yep, turns out that host plants and nectar-producing flowers aren’t the only foods butterflies enjoy. Seems that beer is mighty popular with the winged wonders too! When mixed with molasses and a few slices of over-ripe bananas, beer is an ultimate attraction due to the high sugar content. The best way to offer this type of mixture is on a shallow dish, or spread over some rocks (in full shade is best).
Of course butterflies will take some time to find the new food source, but if habitat is suitable and they’re already hanging around, chances are very good they’ll discover the treat. Habitat would begin with gardening, and oh, the leaf misters! Butterflies adore the gentle mist in summer. To be honest, we’ve never offered butterfly feeders in our yard, but every summer the action is non-stop. Two misters and plants like lantana, milkweed, butterfly bush, abelia and angel trumpet abound, and the best part… they’re all perennial plants which come back every year!
Now if you’re more inclined to offer traditional nectar in your butterfly feeder, remember that they do not drink from an open liquid source. A sponge (preferably new) is necessary to soak up the liquid, and a regular kitchen sponge will do the trick well. In this manner it acts as a wick, where butterflies can draw their food from, more along the lines of extracting nectar from a flower. This stoneware dish is perfect for offering nectar and the beer & molasses mixture, even a few pieces of old banana.
The video below, by P.Allen Smith offers some great suggestions for attracting butterflies through gardening. As far as the beer & molasses mixture? You’re on your own with that!
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!
This may not have a thing to do with birding, but it’s a pretty huge victory toward ending useless animal experiments, and we’re glad to see it!
U.S. companies under pressure to end animal tests as Europe bans the sale of cosmetics tested on animals March 11, 2013,
March 11, 2013,LOS ANGELES, CA–Today (March 11th) Animal Defenders International (ADI) welcomes the final stage of implementation of the European Cosmetics Directive. This ends the sale in the 27 countries of the European Union, of cosmetics that continue to be tested on animals elsewhere in the world. The historic move not only marks the end of the testing of any cosmetics on animals in the EU, but for the first time, puts pressure on cosmetics manufacturers in the USA, and elsewhere to end testing on animals, if they want to sell in the huge EU market of 501 million people.
U.S. Congress and Federal agencies must now act to end cosmetics testing on animals or risk seeing U.S. companies being excluded from the lucrative European cosmetics market.
The European Union has in place a safety testing strategy for cosmetics that does not involve animals – almost all of the tests were replaced three years ago – and is being adhered to by some of the biggest cosmetics manufacturers in the world, and some of them have manufacturing operations in the U.S. There is no reason now, that companies in the U.S. cannot adopt the same protocols. It is vital that these tests are adopted in the U.S., to end unnecessary animal testing and to keep U.S. firms competitive in the world’s markets.
ADI’s partner group, the UK’s National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) ran a 30 year campaign against cosmetic tests, with ADI involved in the campaign for the past 20 years. ADI believes this is not just a victory for ethics but for science, as it has seen the systematic replacement of animal tests with scientifically advanced non-animal alternatives. A series of humane alternative methods were developed, simply because companies were compelled to find them, in the face of upcoming cosmetic testing deadlines set by the European Parliament.
Jan Creamer, ADI President: “This is an historic victory – an end to horrific and cruel animal tests in Europe, and this perfectly positions the U.S. to move swiftly on this issue. Several other countries have now introduced bans on testing cosmetics on animals, but the European Union really provides the perfect model for the U.S. to follow because it includes an alternative testing strategy for regulators.
“A huge factor when we were securing the bans on cosmetics testing, first in the UK and then in Europe, was that these tests were unjustified and unnecessary. However, in terms of the safety testing protocols laid down in regulations, this was always complex. People use products such as cosmetics and toiletries over decades, around the eyes and mouth, so they are absorbed and ingested. However, because the European Parliament agreed that it is not necessary to have more and more of these products, they set deadlines for replacement tests to be introduced. That gave industry the incentive to change.”
“The simple fact is if we can have an effective safety testing strategy that does not use animals for products that are applied to the face and body each day, then we should be preparing to eliminate animal tests in other areas. When we campaigned for the Cosmetics Directive it was met by enormous opposition by animal testing companies, but when they had a deadline and were told they had to do it, they found the humane alternatives.”
The ADI and NAVS exposed the horrific nature of cosmetics testing, securing images inside animal laboratories, of racks of rabbits restrained in stocks having products dripped into their eyes, and guinea pigs with their backs raw and inflamed after having products applied to their skin.
For the majority of tests, animals have not been used for cosmetic ingredients in the EU since March 2009. The deadline for the replacement of certain animal tests under the marketing ban was extended to March 2013 in order to allow alternatives to be developed and approved.
ADI also successfully secured an amendment to the new European Directive on animal experiments, which became law this year, calling for a ‘thematic review’ system of replacement of animal research, with a view to setting targets for replacement of other animal tests in a similar way to the target-setting system within the Cosmetics Directive.
ADI hopes that progress will be made next to end the use of animals for testing household products
Animal Defenders International http://www.ad-international.org
With offices in Los Angeles, London and Bogota, ADI campaigns across the globe on animals in entertainment, providing technical advice to governments, securing progressive animal protection legislation, drafting regulations and rescuing animals in distress. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing the behind-the-scenes suffering in industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport. ADI rescues animals all over the world, and educates the public on animals and environmental issues.
Through its Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research – www.ldf.org.uk – ADI funds non-animal scientific and medical research including cancer, safety tests and neuroscience.
When one’s feeding backyard birds, the objective is usually to see those birds! If you’re getting on up there in years, and your eyesight’s not so great (like me)… keeping a pair of binoculars near the main watching window is always convenient.
Squirrels, blasted squirrels always seem to find and conquer anything that doesn’t have a baffle on it. One lousy window bird feeder (that’s actually mounted on the deck rail) for seeing birds close-up, always seems to have a squirrel in it! Little pigs are even fed, and have their own feeders with which to contend, but alas… it’s never enough.
Well, this new handy dandy window feeder just might do the trick! With an innovative cage for keeping squirrels out, the birds may just be able to eat in peace… where I can actually see them sans the binoculars. Can’t wait to fill ‘er up and try this one on for size!
While doing some bird house research and cruising the web yesterday, there were literally tons of unique birdhouses out there. Some of them began losing their uniqueness because they kept showing up, over and over again. Whimsical, finely detailed architectural styles, rustic, modern and just plain silly bird houses would all make the grade for a perfect nest site. Most had clean-outs, drainage and good ventilation. They also had safe distances from the entrance to floor-helping to keep nestlings safe from predators.
Truth is, the plain wooden houses also provide optimal nesting sites for feathered friends, provided the habitat is somewhat suitable. So why are there so many unique birdhouses out there? Well, for one, people like to decorate their spaces, giving a character and warmth that applies to their outside environment too… call it curb appeal for the yard if you will. Outdoor space and gardening are wildly popular, and for many, backyard birding complements the garden, adding another dimension with moving color, sites and sounds.
Fostering nature is rewarding in many different ways. Whether growing tomatoes, watching birds at a feeder or monitoring bluebird boxes, something from within simply awakens the soul. And absolutely, in this chaotic and fragmented world… our souls could all use some awakening! Another reason they’re so popular? Many of the houses could be classified as bonafide art, expressions of the passion and sheer talent of the artist, who’s likely also into birds on some level.
Maybe that’s why so many unique birdhouses exist? With a severe decline in habitat, and shortage of natural nest cavities, it’s a really positive sign that more folks are helping to house the birds. And if your birdhouse happens to serve as an extension of your personality or character… so be it 🙂
It’s pretty cool when you can take an item and make it work for something other than its intended purpose. Surely there’s some scientific name for it? I do this kind of stuff all the time around the yard/wildlife habitat (which is my little slice of heaven when time allows).
This bird feeder bracket for instance, serves a leaf mister perfectly. Being a raised front porch, the bracket attaches to the porch rail and sits just right above native salvia and clematis. The beautiful thing is that the bracket can be moved if and when an area becomes too saturated from the mister.
Action? The buzz and flutter of activity in summer is stupendous! Both butterflies and hummingbirds dance, play and flit back and forth constantly. Although the salvia draws them in, the star attraction is definitely the gentle mist of water. Looks a bit strong in this photo, but it’s really not at all.
Even song birds will sit on the bird feeder bracket and very tip, just waiting for the water to start! Imagine that – birds attracted to a perch where no feeder exists! Just a downright shame there were snow flurries in Atlanta this morning 🙁 Come on spring!