Outdoors: Now’s the time to clean out nesting boxes
If you have bird houses or nesting boxes at your residence, now’s a good time to check them so see if they need repair and to clean them out before spring arrives. Incoming birds won’t nest on old nest material that may have mites, bugs or even mice in them.
If you don’t have any boxes but would like to enjoy seeing the spring arrivals such as colorful bluebirds, it would be a great time to either buy or build a box/house or two.
According to The Birding Wire, by installing nest houses on your property, you can attract cavity nesting birds including wrens, bluebirds, chickadees, tree swallows and more. Nest boxes provide a needed option for nesting birds that require cavities, which are in short supply. And having one or more on your property allows you to hear the songs of bluebirds, wrens, and chickadees to yards and homes.
The Birding Wire says the birds you prefer to attract to a given nest box can be dictated by the size of the opening you provide in the face of the nest box, as well as the overall dimensions of the box. By providing a smaller entrance hole you ensure smaller birds such as wrens and bluebirds will be attracted and have less competition for a nest site - especially from larger, more aggressive species, which may include non-native birds such as House Sparrows and European Starlings.
If bluebirds are high on your list to attract, keep in mind they don’t like perches as they allow other species and predators to more easily access the nest. And the boxes should be at least 3-5 feet above the ground.
It’s also necessary to position a nest box in the correct habitat; for example, wrens prefer an overgrown location, while Tree Swallows and bluebirds prefer an open setting. It’s usually not suggested to hang bird houses from a wire or line because birds generally don’t like the movement in the wind, which will reduce the chances your bird house will be used.
Predation is a serious concern, so it’s important that nest boxes are protected from squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, some snakes, and other potential nest robbers. Some would say that if you do not provide protection from predators, a bird house merely becomes a feeding site for predators. Be aware of the positioning of nest boxes to ensure predators can’t jump from a nearby trees, fences or buildings.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a leader in providing helpful information to birders interested in nest boxes and bird houses. For a variety of information refer to https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/right-bird-right-house/and associated web pages.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s (PGC) Howard Nursery in Howard, Pa., sells bluebird nesting boxes and kits that are built by staff at the nursery. Bluebirds are the most desired songbird species but other species will also use them, including tiny wrens. Keep in mind bluebirds are early-nesters, so putting one or more up now is preferred.
PGC’s pre-built nest boxes cost $11.66 or get two or more for $10.60 each. To order, call the Howard Nursery at 814-355-4434. S&H costs will apply.
The PGC has been building these boxes for over 30 years and produces an average of 4,000 boxes and 10,000 kits each year.