Whether it's watching Wood Duck ducklings explode like popcorn from a large wooden box mounted on a pole in the middle of a lake or catching the frantic twittering of chicks begging for food in the Bluebird box you carefully selected and wishfully put on a post in your lawn, everyone enjoys deliberate interaction with nature and the renewal that comes with Spring.
Buying and positioning a nesting box or bird house is a project that many people of all ages have enjoyed. The questions of which one to get can be mindboggling and force a person to think about what it is they are trying to accomplish. Questions such as What bird am I trying to accommodate, what size box will it want, what size hole would be suitable, where shall I put it, how high off the ground, which direction should it face, do I need to put a nest in it and how do I know if it's working? Will it attract unwelcome critters? Will the birds live in it for the rest of their lives? Yikes. Too much fun for some.
Unlike those Boy Scouts and weekend woodworking warriors who just want to build a good functional box, earn a badge, and attract whatever's around (and they usually do!) there are others who see putting up a bird house as an opportunity to accessorize and decorate their already pretty backyards. A color coordinated decorative birdhouse with eaves, roof tiles, a tasteful front porch and painted to match or accent the owner's property is another source of endless fun. Watching Mr. and Mrs. Chickadee or Mr. and Mrs. Wren going about their daily chores of collecting suitable nesting material, cleaning the room, feeding the kids and again, cleaning the room, can be a source of great delight and will bring out the best grandparental instincts in all of us.
There is another group of backyard birders amongst us who are not content to watch the daily back and forth of bird parenting. Their interest is more personal. They want to know what is going on behind the scenes, in the so called private area known as "behind closed doors." Armed with equipment pioneered by Agent 007, they rig up surreptitious audio and, believe it or not, video equipment, and they study the intimate goings on at great length, even posting their most interesting segments of film onto the Internet to share with like minded voyeurs. The most intimate of acts and one that became the root of the euphemistic "the Birds and the Bees" is usually not filmed because amorous birds prefer alfresco, but soon we get to egg laying, egg hatching, sibling warfare over food, fecal sacks being hoisted away and eventually the young growing up and leaving home.
Some species of birds have grabbed our collective attention and our desire to do good. Common examples may include the Eastern Bluebird which have readily adapted to carefully mounted nesting boxes with exactly the right size hole and spread out at precisely measured intervals throughout open pastures and conservation land up the East Coast. Another example is the Purple Martin which have also come to rely upon man made nesting houses. The traditional and ubiquitous Purple Martin houses or condos, painted white or green and mounted up high on a pole are looked at wistfully in the long winter months and then with bated breath in the Spring when the first Martins arrive after their exhausting flights from South and Central America.
But there are other bird houses that are less known about. The Peregrine Falcon, once endangered, is doing very well nesting in wooden shelf like houses mounted on the top ledges of office buildings and residential buildings in many of the major cities, such as Boston, MA. These birds have immediately recognized the similarity of the downtown skyscrapers to the sheer cliff-faces and crags of the more traditional wild habitats. The abundance of food has a lot to do with it also. Even those who do not profess much affection for wild birds can appreciate the sight of a Peregrine cutting the pigeon population.
Bird houses or nesting boxes already exist in nature. Backyard birders who are fortunate enough to have trees can see holes that provide good homes. These holes start out small and get worked on by increasingly large birds, up to the Great Horned Owl. By allowing dead trees to go through their natural decay process rather than have them felled affords many species the opportunity to take up residence in our backyards.
A word of caution. Too much fun can be a problem for the parents. Being respectful of the guest's needs is basic hospitality. Nesting birds need to be left alone and allowed to finish their job. Opening the nesting box, peering in at the young, showing friends, and generally hovering around the box can lead to the parents getting overly stressed, failing to feed the young properly and eventual abandonment. The goal is to help the parents raise young. Most people know that, thankfully.
Please visit our Related Bird Houses articles here:
Decorative Bird Houses
Fun Building a Bird House
Purple Martin Birdhouses
Wild Bird Bird Houses
Bird House Pests
Holidays and Gifts