September 12th, 2014
Attracting Birds With Birdhouses
Choosing the Right Bird House
The architecture of a functional outdoor birdhouse should feature a solid wood construction, ventilation, and a way to remove old nests. They should have interior space dimensions which can accommodate a mother bird and her eggs. A mother Bluebird needs enough space to lays her eggs (sometimes up to eight small eggs), and she will need even more space once the eggs hatch and the babies start to grow.
Enclosed bird houses are completely enclosed (four walls) and have small entrances shaped like a circle or oval. Recent studies in New York have suggested that Bluebirds prefer entrance holes that are oval shaped instead of a hole that is perfectly round.
Open face are bird houses which expose the front and side, or partial side walls, allowing for a 90 to 180 degrees view.
Platforms are completely flat and very simple in design, as they consist of nothing more that a flat, square plank of wood. In fact, they are not really a birdhouse at all because there are no walls or roof, just a flat surface. Flat nesting platfoms will usually have a shallow side-rim around the outside edge to help keep the nest materials from falling off the edge. Nesting platforms accommodate birds that prefer a 270°-360° degree view.
Hanging bird houses - If you choose to hang a bird house, you must know that this is not the best option. However, wrens are one of the few species that will build a nest inside of a hanging bird house.
Pole mount - Pole mounted bird houses look great in you backyard. Martin houses (apartments) are a popular choice, and must be high in the air (10-20' ft) giving the martin a view of any near-by bodies of water.
A side mounted bird house is the best choice for most birds, as the instincts of a bird are undeniably accurate in determining stability. Mounted bird houses can attach to a pole, fence or wall, and are a good option for most birds including dove.
Bird houses that sit on their base are decorative, and are commonly used to display on an outdoor shelf, in your home, office or patio.
Bird houses don't need perches. Most birds have no problem landing directly on the side of the entrance. Landing slots just below the entrance hole add an extra space for the bird's claws to grasp. It also allows the mother bird to hang from the outside to feed her babies once they are big enough to stick their heads out through the entrance and receive food from the mother. Fledglings get so big that the mother can no longer enter into the structure, restricting her to feeding babies from the outside only.
Bird House Location
There are many species of birds in North America that will choose a fully or partially enclosed structure to live in. Placing a bird house in the right location will greatly increase your chances of attracting a bird.
The location of your bird house is important. Birds that prefer open face or platform structures like open views from where they nest. Robins mostly choose closed or partially closed structures and it's best to mount them on a strong branch in the lower half of a large shade tree or the side of a shed with an overhang. Robins spend a lot of time in trees, so if you mount a structure in a tree, mount it in the lower half of the tree in a secure spot that blends and looks natural. Mother robins, however, are known for building nests in unlikely places such as outside light fixtures, gutters or open spaces under a roof overhangs. If you have a strong tree on your property, choose a space in the tree that has open views through its branches. Try to face the structure away from direct sunlight. A platform style bird house will also attract other species, such as dove, cardinals and orioles to name a few.
For pole mounting, place bird houses on a 6-10 foot pole and about 25 feet apart. Although this is optimal for most birds, purple martin houses will be more successful if they are place 10-20 feet high away from trees and located near a large water source, since they love to eat flying insects. Owl houses should be about 18-20' feet above ground. Telescopic poles will enable you to bring the structure down for inspection and cleaning.
Bluebirds have become more dependent on humans in past decades, so mounting a birdhouse to a post or fence will increase the chances of bluebird survival. Make sure the birdhouse is mounted in an open area with some trees and shrubs not too far away. Bluebirds are also known for sticking around during winter instead of migrating to warmer weather, and placing a bird house near a bird feeder will ensure that these attractive songbirds will have what they need to survive during cold winter months.
If you want multiple bird houses to attract various bird species, place multiple bird houses in various places at opposite ends of your yard. Open and closed bird houses mounted or hung in various locations will attract a number of species, including wrens, bluebirds, robins and titmice. Placing a bird house somewhere beneath the roof of a shed or garage will attract phoebes, since they need the added security of a large overhang. Place the bird houses at least 25 feet apart, giving them a comfort zone and preventing territorial birds from competing for space. Attracting bluebirds and starlings might be a problem, since they are species that fight and compete for the same nesting sites. Starlings played a role in the declining bluebird population during the 20th century.
Do not use a bird houses with a perch if you have a big problem with predators in your area. Perches make it east for snakes, squirrels, cats and other predators to climb up and eat eggs.
Final Considerations Concerning Location
Do not mount a bird house close to a vegatable garden unless the birds you are trying to attact are insectivores. Insect eating birds will help to reduce the number of harmful bugs that destroy your garden plants and vegetables. Attracting seed eating birds will not be as beneficial, as they can find newly planted seeds in your garden that have been planted 1/2" inch in the ground.
Be careful not to place a bird house too close to a bird feeder, causing many birds to congregate and come close to the mother bird and her eggs.
Bird House Materials
Wood is the best material to use for a bird house. Regardless of the type of bird you are trying to attract, wood is the most blended and abundant substance in nature that a bird will make use of. Building a wooden bird house and placing it next to a tree or shrub with similar wood texture will make the bird feel that the structure is part of nature.
Wood is durable, has good insulating qualities, and is porous, which means it breathes. Wood thickness should be at least 1/2" thick. Solid wood is preferable, but plywood will also do. Avoid pressboard or any other pressure and chemical wood. Pine and cedar are durable and affordable. Hard woods such as Mahogany are good too, but more expensive.
For pole mounted bird houses, the pole used should be made from metal to stop the threat of cats, squirrels and raccoons from gripping the pole and climbing up. If a wooden pole is used, it should be equipped with a predator guard.
Never paint or stain the interior. For the outside, choose a non-toxic paint that is water resistant and has a level of ultraviolet protection. Stain, on the other hand, will give you more flexibility for retaining the natural look for grain and texture, and allows you to match the bark texture and color of the trees in your backyard more accurately. Some birds do not have a very good sense of smell, however, you should still avoid using too much stain because birds can still detect oil, metal, stain, and paint. Using metal for the sides and roofs may cause a serious reflection from the sun and discourage birds from nesting. It may also attract predators.
Mother birds use twigs, leaves, dry grass, moss, bark strips, pine needles, hair and mud to build their nests. Be sure that you don't clear your yard of all these nest-making materials because it will make it difficult for the mother bird to find nest-building materials. If you do however, you can always place man-made materials like string, stuffing material, thin strips of cloth, shredded paper and yarn in a bucket and then place the bucket in an open area. A mother bird is sure to find the material and use it to make her nest.