I received an email the other day from a woman asking about a resource that would match up local birds to bird houses and plans for making them. She was looking for something to be able to do with her children so that they could learn about nature and wildlife while providing nesting sites for birds.
This is a really fun topic, not only because it’s fun to set up a new bird house and see the life stories that play out but also because it gives us a chance to look at the world from that bird’s viewpoint and consider the habitat and the features around us that will attract certain birds versus others. It makes us ask questions like: is this a safe spot to raise my young? will it be warm enough or too hot? where will the babies fly to for their first flight from the box? is there food and water around?
But I’m getting ahead of myself…. in terms of books that are great for bird houses and plans, there are two that I’ve found that are particularly good. The first is called Woodworking for Wildlife: Homes for Birds and Mammals. It was put together by Carrol Henderson and published through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. I like this book the most because it is organized by bird or mammal (versus by type of house).
So, for example, there’s a chapter on Eastern Phoebes and in that chapter the author provides and summary of the types of food the bird eats (e.g. insects, berries or seeds), the type of habitat it prefers, places that they like to build their nests and other specifics like the sound of its call and identifying marks. There are also full color photos throughout the book that include pictures of nests, eggs and fledglings. Then, at the back of the book they have all the plans and instructions for building the nestboxes and platforms and the specific birds that will use each design are listed.
I’ve used this book to make all sorts of houses from woodpecker houses to screech owl houses and of course bluebird nestboxes. It’s really well done. Almost all the birds listed in this book are native to our area as well so it’s a great resource.
The second book that I’ve found on this is called Birdhouses and Feeders You Can Make, by Paul Gerhards. This book is primarily a book of plans and indeed it too has houses for birds that are local to Loudoun. There’s a table in the front that lists the different bird species and their particular needs and then for each plan they list which bird uses the box or platform type. The nice thing about this book is that it also has feeder plans so you can get into building those too if you want.
These are fun activities to do over the winter. Best time to have your nest boxes up is by the first week of March or so, so that the birds will find them just as they’re starting to nest. Something to keep in mind is putting up predator guards as well (such as stovepipe guards to keep raccoons and snakes out as well as noel guards).
If you have bird houses or plans you’d like to share please let us know and we’ll post pictures and plans here. Also, I’m going to start doing some posts on general info on our local Loudoun birds and appropriate houses for them so stay tuned for that too.