Spring has arrived, migration is well on its way, and birds are quickly arriving back in the area. You might not realize it, but in early April, many birds are in the beginning stages of scoping out where to nest and some early achievers might have nests built and starting to lay their first round of eggs. But many birds, due to loss of habitat, are looking for a safe place to nest.
At the Sanctuary, we are often asked, “How can I help the birds?” We have a great answer, promote nesting through installing and monitoring nest boxes! As land has become more populated by humans, the trees that housed nesting birds in their natural cavities have decreased. Given the right location and commitment to monitoring, nest boxes can have an immediate and positive impact on increasing the bird population. Given only 20% of birds fledged survive their first year of life, the more birds that can be hatched, the better.
A great place to jump into being a “tiny house developer” is by installing nest boxes for cavity nesting birds. In our area of Michigan, cavity nesting birds include Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, House Wrens and Black-capped Chickadees. Cornell Lab of Ornithology is an excellent resource for everything regarding nest boxes and plans to build nest boxes. We would encourage you to visit:
https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/ for more information.
Nest box placement is a key component for success. Cavity nesting birds are attracted to grassy open areas or yards. They prefer to have a place to perch near the nest box which can be a tree branch, a fence post or even a garden stake. If possible, attaching the nest box to a single metal pole in the open helps to deter predation from animals such as raccoons who can easily climb a fence or fence post. The entrance hole of the nest box should open to the East, since this will help protect the box from inclement weather during the spring and summer months.
Another key component to nest box success is monitoring of the nest box during nesting season. It has been scientifically proven that nests that are monitored on a weekly basis have better success rates than those that are only installed and never visited again. Boxes that are not monitored often become a haven for invasive species of birds like House Sparrows and European
Starlings. Monitoring is as easy as taking a look to identify what species of bird is building a nest in the nest box, keeping track of when and how many eggs are found in the nest, identifying when the eggs have hatched and verifying when the birds mature and fledge from the nest. More specific information about nest identification, species information and the monitoring process can be found at https://nestwatch.org/.
Promoting nesting through installing nest boxes is not only “for the birds” but it can be a very rewarding experience for all!