June 3rd, 2019
What Color Should I Paint My Birdhouse?
Designing your own birdhouse should be fun, right? Yes, so when it comes to choosing colors to paint your birdhouse, feel free to choose ANY colors you like!
Which birdhouse colors are best?
Painting a birdhouse should be an enjoyable experience. Yet, as simple as it is, there are those who are a bit more concerned about the subject of color influence . Some reasons for color considerations are:
- Enticing a Motherbird - Studies have shown that there may be a connection between the color of a birdhouse and whether or not a motherbird chooses to lay her eggs in it. Red is a good example.
- Special Occasions - When it comes to gift giving, there are colors that correspond to special occasions and holidays. For instance, red, green and white are common colors for Christmas presents. Bright Red is associated with Valentines Day, and Mom will love soft pastels for her Mother's Day gift.
- Decoration - A decorative birdhouse is a non-functioning birdhouse that is used to create a nice arrangement of items indoors or outdoors. Decorative colors include any colors you like.
- Kids Projects - Yes, kids can have lots of fun with arts and crafts. Painting a birdhouse with non-toxic brands will give kids a safe and enjoyable experience. Popular kids colors are bright colors, hot colors, and florescents.
Enticing a Motherbird - Do birds like colorful birdhouses?
Arguably, this may be the top reason why outdoor enthusiasts choose to paint a birdhouse with a particular color. In their attempt to entice a motherbird, some will chose colors that have been shown to increase the chances of a mother bird selecting one birdhouse over another. Birds have nothing less than excellent vision and perceive color very well. According to a study by the British Trust for Ornithology, birds have been found to have four color receptive cones, while human eyes have only three. Birds are also able to see well in ultraviolet which produces a change in color perception that humans cannot visually detect. Basically, birds recognize various colors for reasons of food association, gender recognition, and safety.
Food Association - Birds are attracted to colors mainly because of food association. For example, hummingbirds are attracted to the color red because red flower blossoms contain nectar. Often times you will see nectar feeders sold in stores that have a red base and red top, and the reason is because hummingbirds associate red with their main food of choice - nectar. Red works well for birdhouses too, as birds that rely on red food sources will be naturally inclined to a nesting location with red colors. There are many bird species that like to eat red, dark-red and reddish-purple foods such as berries, apples, plums and strawberries, as well as colorful flower blossoms. Birds are more inclined to notice a birdhouse or bird feeder painted with these colors. Solid red and a combination of red and white birdhouses are popular choices among bird enthusiasts when shopping for painted birdhouses.
Gender Recognition - It might also make sense to paint a birdhouse with black, white, grey or brown colors. These are colors that birds naturally identify with since they are found in the feathers of many bird species. Indeed, there are contrasting colors and patterns that occur in feathers between genders of the same species. Female sparrows have a blend of grey, black and brown stripes along their back. While male sparrows have the same, but more of a contrasting combination of black, light grey and brown around their head and neck.
So should you paint your birdhouse grey, white black or brown? Well, it might make good sense to use them for a birdhouse since these are colors and shades that occur naturally in wood, rocks and soil as well. Birds are very familiar with their surroundings, and so natural color tones will make a birdhouse seem part of the natural background. But it's really up to you. Painting a birdhouse should be fun, right? So paint your birdhouse any color you like. Just remember that there ARE particular colors and shades that may "influence" a mother bird to choose one birdhouse structure over another.
Safety - There is very little evidence that will suggest that certain birdhouse colors will create a strong sense of safety for birds. There is no definitive list of "safe colors." However, there is some evidence that might suggest that certain colors will influence a mother bird to draw near to a birdhouse painted with "bright" colors. This probably has to do with the fact that humans have always provided birds with brightly colored structures throughout the decades, and a bird's instincts have evolved into associating bright colors with "safety."
Avoid this one color in particular! - According to The Spruce, the color white signals alarm, danger and aggression to many birds. Many birds use white in their plumage as a warning. If you're a bird lover, try to avoid adding white finishes to objects and structures in your yard, as this could alert them to stay away. Read more in their article, "Colors That Attract Birds"
What colors are birds attracted to? - When it comes to the colors and shades that birds look for in a birdhouse, there are general thoughts and opinions among bird watchers, teachers and birdhouse manufacturers. But when it comes to science, there's not much evidence to show exactly what colors birds are specifically attracted to. However, there is sufficient information to consider that will allow us to make accurate assumptions based on empirical evidence (information received by means of the senses, particularly by observation and documentation of patterns and behavior through experimentation). The following list of colors will give some examples.
- dark blue
- tan or yellow
- light brown
- dark brown
- dark green
Colors of Food - It may also have to do with the fact that bird feeders are often made with the same bright colors like green, red and yellow, so they are naturally inclined to draw near to them. Again, this is mainly related to food, but a bird's keen eyesight has enabled them to also associate colors based on their own experience in nature (not influenced by humans), such as recognizing different colors in the feathers of opposite genders of the same bird species.
Here are some other resources to consider when choosing an effective color for your birdhouse project...
- The Spruce suggests that red, orange, pink, yellow and blue are influential colors.
- Color Meanings suggests that red, yellow, blue-green, purple and orange might be influential.
When it comes to any kind of bird structure, whether it's a birdhouse or bird feeder, red seems to be a very popular choice. Scientifically, red has been proven to attract birds more than most other colors.
Finish Options For Preserving Natural Colors - But what if you don't want to apply any colors to your birdhouse? Could you preserve the natural color of unfinished wood? Absolutely! If you love working with wood, there are methods of preserving the natural color and grain without completely covering the wood surface. Applications for preserving the original look of wood include oil, pre-stain conditioners with white pigment, clear matte polyurethane, transparent wood sealers and clear brushing lacquer.
Before applying a protective finish to the surface of your DIY project, decide what topical finish application is best. Begin by dividing your application procedures into three phases.
- Phase 1 - Do some research at the library, or surf the Internet. There are many ways to gather information on the subject of wood finishing. You can also talk to an expert wood finisher. Altogether, make sure to take notes and study them. This will prepare you to choose the best possible finish solution for your project: paint, stain, unfinished, toxic, non-toxic. These are all viable solutions according to specific needs.
- Phase 2 - Now you're going to need some "elbow grease." Yes, that's right "elbow grease" (effort - the opposite of laziness). When it comes to applying a topical finish to the surface walls and roof, there's some "trial and error" that's part of the process, so be patient. When it comes to your choice of wood finishes, there's no shortcut.
- Phase 3 - Once you've applied the finish of your choice, there's little to do besides wait and observe. Only time will tell if your DYI project will be a success. Have any birds been checking it out? Has a motherbird chosen your project as her nesting place? Is the construction holding up against the heat, wind and rain? Altogether, consider the fact the you've at least dressed up your yard with some attractive outdoor decor (you're sure to get a compliment or two from your neighbors).
Consider Natural Applications - When considering a finish application for your project, try homemade remedies designed to preserve real wood without harmful chemicals and foul odors. Natural wood stains derived from coffee, berries and other editable food grade items make viable choices and offer distinct advantages for any wood project. Many combinations of items found in a kitchen cabinet or refrigerator can be used as a non-toxic mixture of natural looking and pleasant smelling concoctions.
Unfinished - Choosing wood with no surface application is also a good choice. Natural wood colors include earth tones of yellow, brown and red, and all variations in between. Wood can show other variations too, such as streaks, knots, blended colors and irregular grain patterns. Wood species to consider are White Pine, Yellow Cedar, Redwood, Red Oak, Black Walnut, Cherrywood and Pink Ivory.
Children - Setting up a birdhouse project for kids is fun and easy for everyone, and let's face it, when it comes to kids, the sky is the limit. There's no telling what they'll come up with when they're done painting. As an adult, you know that kids love painting birdhouses, so just make sure that they have plenty of bright cheerful colors to choose from and they'll have lots of fun... bright red, lime green, hot pink. There's lots of acrylic and latex hobby colors on the market, so just have fun with it.
Adults - For adults who know how to work with toxic and non-toxic chemical applications, color options can include stain choices too, such as Early American (traditional brown), Red Mahogany (a deep dark red-brown luster), Golden Oak (yellowish-goldish), Ebony (near solid back). Remember to always use protective eyewear, vinyl gloves and facial respirators when applying chemical-based wood stains. This also includes the use of water-based stains.
School of Environmental Sciences - A study conducted by the School of Environmental Sciences used colored bird feeders and suggested that overall, silver feeders attract the most garden birds but that preferences vary between species. Suprisingly, this particular study showed conflicting results suggesting that red and yellow feeders were the least popular colors with almost every species.
Special Occasions & Gift Giving
Gift Giving - When you consider what colors to use for a special gift, there are many colors that will turn a plain wooden birdhouse into a colorful project. There are no rules or restrictions that apply to the endless number of available colors you can choose. Your only intention should be to please a friend or loved one with a colorful, imaginative gift created by your own hands.
Indoors & Outdoors - Birdhouses do a great job in decorating your home landscape. Gray, brown and white colors will help a birdhouse structure compliment the colors of outdoor rustic furniture. On the other hand, bright colors will help to make a birdhouse "stand out" and be noticed easily by your guests and neighbors. A green birdhouse hanging from the branch of an evergreen tree will blend nicely with the leaves on the tree branches and background shrubs.
Kids Colors - Don't under-estimate the imagination of a child. Yes, when it comes to your little rascals, you never know what they'll come up with. In school, at the park, in an arts n crafts fair, give them all the colors of the color-spectrum, because they're always willing to put their painting fingers to work when it comes to painting a birdhouse. Give them non-toxic paints, along with all the obvious colors - bright red, bright blue, hot pink, yellow and lime green. Florescent colors are a popular choice too.
Younger Children & Infants - Children are not usually impressed by different shades of the same color, for example, an item painted with baby blue and dark blue might not have enough of a contrasting appearance to hold a child's attention. Toy manufacturers are aware of this, and just walking down the toy isle of a typical retail store will display an inventory of toys with every color. Contrasting colors are best for kids, especially infants, and the colors of the rainbow are a good combination of colors to consider. The traditional belief that blue is for boys and pink is for girls doesn't apply anymore.
California's Proposition 65
If you sell home-made birdhouses on Houzz or other selling forums, be aware of California's Proposition 65. This is a California state law officially known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. The proposition protects the state's drinking water sources from being contaminated with chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and requires businesses with 10 or more employees to inform the people of California about exposure to such chemicals.
For a list of suggestions for safe vs. hazardous applications for your birdhouse, check out this website. Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed reading this article, please read our article on How to Attract Birds»
Next, read about What's the difference between a nestbox and birdhouse?»