Well, believe it or not, spring is just around the corner, and that means our favorite songbirds and woodpeckers are now looking for suitable nesting sites. Basically, about 85 of our nations 650 bird species use cavities for nest sites. The rest of our bird species build open nests. As a bird or nature lover, you may have already been placing birdhouses out for our cavity-nesting friends, but a quick overview of some birdhouse basics may be in order. First of all, what exactly is a cavity? When speaking in a “bird sense,” a cavity is traditionally defined as a hole in a tree. These natural cavities are usually the result of damage to a tree due to weather or disease. However, some species of birds – especially woodpeckers – will excavate a cavity themselves. We call the woodpecker a primary cavity nester because it creates most new cavities. The ecological result is a supply of once-used cavities for secondary cavity nesters – such as wrens, bluebirds, flycatchers, and swallows – that rely on pre-existing holes. With a decline in naturally existing cavities, along with a reduction in suitable and available trees, many cavity-nesting birds have declined. This is why providing an artificial nesting site is so important. By simply building and placing a birdhouse (or discarded paint can, old mailbox or even a clothespin bag) in a suitable habitat, chances are it will be readily and quickly occupied by at least one species from year to year.
So how do you begin? Which birds use nest boxes? Whether you buy your nest boxes at a store or nature center or build them from scratch, there are certain characteristics your housing should have to best suit the needs of nesting birds. Here are some recommendations for birdhouse basics:
This article is a publication of Clemson University Cooperative Extension's Forestry & Natural Resources team.
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