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Bird cavities

 
Posts: 8
Location: Zone 5 Atlantic Canada
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Hi! I couldnt figure out where to post this so hopefully this is an ok spot.

Im trying to turn a lightly wooded area into a food forest (planted a chestnut, 2 plum cuttings, a bunch of acorns and walnuts in the ground,  tossed loads of seaweed in the area and placed a few woodchip paths and rockpiles for microclimates).

I wanted to encourage more birds and wildlife in the area to control insects and possibly spread some seeds. A spruce lost its bough in hurricane winds earlier so i cut it off around 5 feet high and just drilled/chiseled a cavity near the top. I tried to put a slight angle on the roof and sanded it down to try to improve drainage/reduce rot potential. The entrance is just under 2 inches at widest spot and the cavity is probably around 3x3 on the inside. I have a picture!

Can anyone take a look and tell me the pros or cons of this approach and whether there is anything I can do to improve the quality of this bird habitat?

I have a couple of other snags and if people believe that this is a viable approach i might expand the experiment to other trees and other heights. There is a small "pond" very close that usually resembles more of a puddle in the summer, but a large body of salt water about 50 yards away. Im in zone 6 atlantic canada ( im not sure what birds here might consider this cavity as viable or attractive habitat).

Thanks!!
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pollinator
Posts: 212
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Living on the other side of the pond, we have different species. But I think the processes are similar

I guess the entrance is too big in relationship with the cavity, which will lead to the bird being eaten.
The height of the cavity is too low, our species here wouldn't nest in there, due to predators (weasel, cats...)

But I think it is great to keep dead wood standing: many insects will be living there, which will allow birds to be around even when your pests are low.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3471
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Bird cavities? Like in hen's teeth?

Couldn't resist. We let the woodpeckers make the holes, and opportunists take advantage where possible. I would just leave more standing dead wood. Insectivores will eat the insects eating the dead wood, and cavities will result.

-CK
 
Eon MacNeill
Posts: 8
Location: Zone 5 Atlantic Canada
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Any idea what would be a better height for this style of cavity? I do have a larger snag nearby, it is obviously harder to work the higher you go - i guess i might need to get a ladder out!

This is very rural area so there are no domestic cats around although there is a bobcat that lives in the area--- i dont think he would bother with a songbird nest although i could be wrong.

There is still some room to expand the cavity here as well, a lot of the bird houses say to have 4x4 dimensions for smaller birds but i was getting a blister and i figured nature wouldnt always be perfectly fitted, right? But perhaps i should keep widening and deepening it to increase the safety factor---- or is 5 ft just too low and i should move onto the taller snag? Decisions...

Thanks for responding
 
steward & bricolagier
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Location: SW Missouri
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I think something will move in there, bird or squirrel. Looks like a good place for something to move into.
If you build it, they will come! Just not sure who the "they" is here...
 
Posts: 116
Location: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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Identifying what birds happily live in your area is key, next is figuring who eats insects that you don't want. Cheat, call the local bird store or birding group, narrow it down to a few species, and design your cavities for them.

Entrance holes can be as little as 1 and 1/8 inch to a max of 2 inches for most 'songbirds' - but the difference of an 1/8 of an inch will have certain species say no thanks!

Interior size is generally 4-5 inches across, 6-9 inches high - again, this can be very specific to the species.

Height is, again, species specific, but generally 5-15 feet is the 'zone'.

Spacing can be critical, for some species up to 150 feet apart!

Face next boxes opposite to prevailing winds, ideally east facing.

Might be easier to split and hollow log sections, then screw on a top and bottom - if you took a slice off the top and bottom before splitting you would have your roof AND floor.

Ideally, nest boxes should be easily opened for cleaning after each brood/season.

Ideally nest boxes should have 'drain holes', just in case.

NEVER use perches.

Leave the insides rough (don't sand smooth) Fledglings need something for inexperienced claws to cling to when accessing the opening.

Some species like to "excavate" so the addition of a few inches of wood shavings can be enticing, when suitable.

Avoid attracting birds who might view your forest food garden as THEIR food garden.
 
Eon MacNeill
Posts: 8
Location: Zone 5 Atlantic Canada
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Thanks for the reply. From what youve said it seems that i might be in the range for some species with the possible exception of internal box height.  I might need a longer chisel to get to 6 inches deep, right now probably only 3 inches depth below entrance, with maybe an inch above.

It would definitely be easier to use a log section but this seems sturdy and natural. It might be harder to clean out but not impossible.  I wonder if i should use a small diameter bit from a low angle to facilitate a drainage hole? This surely wouldnt exist in a natural cavity though?
 
gardener
Posts: 2745
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
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Hi Eon;  
As Pearl said , something will move into that hole.

After reading Lorinne's response, I would say she is highly experienced !
Her suggestion of identifying the local birds you want to nest , and then build your nesting spot to fit them is 100% spot on!

Here in western Montana , for the last 30 years there is a group of folks who build bird boxes to encourage the Western Bluebird  to nest.
The box is mounted to a fence post but must have the exact size opening or they will not use it!  
Their efforts are successful , we have a good population of them now. A Beautiful bird!    
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pollinator
Posts: 132
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One year we grew some birdhouse gourds. After they dried and cured, I went to make birdhouses of them, and realized I had no idea how large to drill the holes. Hadn't occured to me yet, but I also didn't know how high to hang 'em. I found a website with a chart that helped, and might help you now.

Birdhouse Hole Size Chart
 
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