Spring has sprung! Flowers are in bloom. Trees are budding. Birds are singing. It’s time to ready the backyard for outdoor fun once again…and let’s not forget our feathered friends! Christine, Maddie and Bailey’s Mom and our resident expert on all things avian, has a few suggestions for us on how to properly house and care for our backyard birds.
Christine’s interest in birds can be traced back to her father, who bred exotic birds (Cockatoos, Cockatiels, Macaws, African Greys, and Parrots), and to her mother, who owned a talkative Yellow Nape Parrot. When Christine purchased her current home in 2005, she made certain to reserve a corner of her ¾ of an acre for the beautiful birds. She even had her property certified as a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
Christine has several birdhouses on her property: one in her backyard is for her Carolina Wrens, and two in the front yard are for her Bluebirds and Carolina Chickadees.
“I had to put two houses in the front because I have some Bluebirds and Chickadees trying to build a nest in the same house,” Christine said. “The Chickadees settled on one house and the Bluebirds on the other. I am rather excited because this is the first year we will have Chickadees nest in our yard!”
While there are specialty shops and catalogs from which to purchase suitable avian housing, Christine builds her birdhouses herself in her own workshop, where she keeps a notebook listing her plans and hole sizes for all cavity nesting birds. The very first house she built was for Bluebirds.
“I guess my interest (in building birdhouses) started when I saw a house I liked and thought to myself: I can make that! So I found some plans and tried it,” Christine said. “I have always worked on my own cars and used tools around the house, so the simple tools and power tools (for the birdhouses) were no problem. I am still a little scared of the table saw…LOL!”
Like many backyard bird enthusiasts, Christine has had personal, up-close experiences with the feathered creatures.
“At one of my jobs, a Great Crested Flycatcher flew right into one of the windows. Poor thing was knocked out on the ground,” Christine described. “I picked him up, and he was still breathing! So I just cradled him until he came to, and put him out on a picnic table by the trees. He finally flew away when one of his buddies swooped down at him!”
To attract and house birds in your backyard, Christine recommends perseverance and education. While creating the proper environment (food, water, shelter, and a place to raise the young) is key, Christine says attracting birds to your yard is often “hit and miss.”
“Make sure your house has all the right specs, and wait,” She said. “It took a year for Bluebirds to find their house, and they have come back ever since. Once they know where a house is, they will come back. Make sure there is plenty of food and water at your feeder station. You can also provide nesting material that you can make yourself out of small feathers, dog hair, and different types of yarn, or you can buy material at your local biding store.”
“Do not visit the nest more than once a week!” Christine continued. “Predators can smell your tracks, and will discover the nest. If you see a baby bird has fallen out of the nest box, you may put it back in. Birds do not have a good sense of smell and will take care of the baby as normal. However, if the baby is sick, Mama Bird may kick out the bird again. This is very sad, but is part of nature. Once the babies have fledged the nest, go ahead and clean out the box. This will encourage another brood, especially with Bluebirds. Make sure to have a grocery bag to put the nest in, and throw it away in a trash can as far away from the box as possible. Again, this is to keep predators away. Brush out all debris and wash out the box. You may use a 10% bleach solution to disinfect the house. Just make sure you leave the box open to air out for at least 24 hours.”
Christine recommends education via websites such as http://www.sialis.org, http://www.nwf.org, and http://www.allabout birds.org), and suggests finding a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in your area that can assist if you find injured or baby animals.
If you would like to purchase a birdhouse, please email Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org. Prices vary depending upon what type of house you need, but generally houses cost no more than $10.00 plus shipping.
In the next issue of Dogpawfile Magazine, Christine will share advice on how to photograph backyard wildlife.