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).
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.
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.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
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...
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.
Lorinne Anderson: Specializing in sick, injured, orphaned and problem wildlife for over 20 years.
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?
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!
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.
Bluebirds don't often nest in wooded areas. They prefer the "edge" of a pasture or meadow. Sometimes, they may nest in your front yard if you offer them the proper situation. Try searching bluebirds across america website. The Audubon society will offer free plans on acceptable bluebird housing. Bluebirds are pretty fussy about their housing and will reject any that are not made to specs. They are often predated by English Sparrows, Starlings and Tree Swallows. There is a lot of information available online o how to construct and place housing for Bluebirds. But the correct number of houses placed 50 feet apart will be necessary.
The hole in your manufactured house is just too large to protect Bluebirds from Starlings. The proper opening should be drilled to the correct diameter. If you have made the hole too large, you can construct another proper sized hole from a larger piece of wood and screw that over the hole. The thickness of the added wood will offer more protection from predators such as raccoons, other larger birds (such as Purple headed Grackles) from reaching inside the nest and pulling the hatchlings out. Once a nest has been compromised by predators, the Bluebirds won't come back to that site. Ever. And word will travel throughout the Bluebird community that your place isn't safe.
To prevent predators from climbing up any pole to reach the house, you can put up a barrier of sheet metal on the pole. Or a squirrel baffle. If you offer housing, you must be sure you have done all possible to prevent predation.
I walked the Bluebirds Across America trail in Huntington, Vermont in the mid-1990's. There were over 50 houses on a two mile trail. It was interesting to see who would nest in these manufactured houses. There were chickadees, tree swallows, wrens and flying squirrels!
Houses must be cleaned out each spring, after the worst of the winter is over. Bluebirds will scout for acceptable housing in late winter. I have heard they are already scouting in my area (south coastal Mass). If nesting material is left from the previous nesting season, parasites may linger and infest the new hatchlings. Mites is the largest killer of newly hatched birds. But the previous season's nesting material should be left in winter. In severe storms, Bluebird families will seek shelter in nest boxes. The left behind nesting material will offer some insulation from the harsh winds and heavy snow.
All constructed houses should have the proper opening size. All houses should be easily opened for yearly clean out. Roofs should be water proof. Do not paint houses. Use rough-cut lumber for construction of houses.
More information is available online. I hope this helps.
We can take care of our small piece of this world. Leave no footprints.
We purchased 10 acres this past summer and I was happy to see dozens of bluebirds around!! I will be building a lot of bluebird houses this coming spring after my new home is done.
We have many standing dead ponderosa pines of various sizes on our property and I can see that the local birds have taken advantage of these trees!
It will be a great summer taking stock of the birds here!
Well, just an update. I erected a small birdhouse on a dead spruce at about 7'' high. It did attract a chickadee nest at one point but shortly thereafter I caught the squirrels entering and exiting and they must have killed them off.
This little project did not attract anything in particular - I noticed a sowbug inside the cavity at one point. It must be either too low or too small of a cavity. I may try to expand it in the future. Cheers!
Rocket Mass Heater Plans: Annex 6" L-shaped Bench by Ernie and Erica