Burien, Washington




Mewsings from Millie


 Hello, and welcome back to my musings!

You know, there are a few things that I deem essential to my comfort: plenty of water, adequate food, a warm bed, a clean litter box and a sunny spot to sleep in when possible. Well, just as I have certain preferences concerning my home, so do birds.

Some birds want to live in the protection of the woods, while others want to be in the open. In either case, nesting boxes, otherwise known as birdhouses, can provide a cozy home for cavity-nesting birds.

So, what makes for a good nesting box? To begin with, the wood used for nesting boxes should always be non-pressure-treated wood so nestlings don't come in contact with harsh chemicals. Cedar, pine or cypress are the best choices. For larger boxes, like for owls, plywood can be used.

The walls should be at least 3/4" thick to provide insulation to keep the nest warm. Two 5/8" holes near the top on each of the side walls (four holes in all) will provide adequate ventilation. A sloped roof that overhangs the front by 2 - 4 inches will keep out rain and deter predators.

The box can be put together with galvanized screws. Galvanized screws are resistant to the elements and provide a tighter seal than nails. Also, screws can be easily removed and put back into place making it easier for repairs and annual cleaning.

Most importantly, the box should not have a perch or be painted bright colors. Bright colors attract predators and although providing a perch is very thoughtful, birds don't need it and predators will use it to gain access to the box.

Knowing a little bit about the tastes of certain birds can help in attracting a particular species to a nesting box. For instance, everyone's favorite, the chickadee, prefers a hole that is 1 1/8" in diameter. The house should be placed 6 - 10 feet above the ground and be near woods or large trees in a yard.

The House Wren is attracted to a hole that is 1" - 1 1/8", with the house at the same height as the chickadee and in the same kind of habitat.

The Northern Flicker likes a hole that is 2 1/2" in diameter and a box that is 10 - 20 feet above the ground near woods.

Of course, there are some birds that just won't use a nesting box. These include the American Goldfinch and Anna's Hummingbird.

Besides helping the birds in our yards, nesting boxes have helped bring back some birds from almost certain extinction due to loss of habitat and/or hunting. The Eastern Bluebird, Wood Duck, Purple Martin and Prothonotary Warbler have all grown their populations due to nesting boxes.

For more information about nesting boxes for over 50 species of birds and for blueprints, go to bit.ly/allaboutbirdhouses.

Until next time,

Millie, the Muse of Mews