Bird Stewards

Installing a Birdhouse


It's Birdhouse Time!

Just like planting a tree, the best time to put up a birdhouse is yesterday! – anonymous.

swallowhouse
Tree swallow enjoying a bird house.

With habitat loss being one of the main contributing factors to wildlife decline, it’s more important than ever to ensure we are providing sufficient habitat for animals. While that also includes stopovers and corridor links for migrating species (but that’s for a future article), here we will focus on nesting habitat. Aside from planting native trees and shrubs, putting appropriate birdhouses on your property will also help provide necessary habitat for birds (and you may want to consider adding bat boxes into the mix!)

Birds use birdhouses for nesting or just for shelter. If you want to ensure your birdhouse is used for nesting and have a species in mind, then make sure you choose a birdhouse that meets that species' specifications (such as size, hole size, placement height). Make a note of when that bird returns to your property and install the birdhouse a week prior to the bird's arrival.

Birdhouses need to have proper drainage and an opening for cleaning out last year's materials. Houses also need to be properly sealed against rain and snow. However, houses that are properly sealed can get a strong ammonia smell from bird droppings, therefore, houses also need proper venting in order to have good air circulation. Adding a layer of sawdust to the bottom of the house will ensure that the ammonia smell is absorbed, but also that venting along the bottom doesn't force hot air outside even while circulating air.

After breeding season is done, cleaning needs to be done to keep out mice, parasites, and insects that can harm birds. Ensure that any birdhouses you buy come from merchants who have materials and specifications for installation for local birds. If you have any questions about placement, reach out to an expert.

birds with homes
Placing your birdhouse near food helps reduce energy exerted by overworked parents like this tree swallow (left) and wren (right), who fly food back to babies all day long.

Make sure food sources are near, such as shrubs and plants that provide nuts, seeds, and fruit or feeders. Put out nesting materials that are safe for birds (please see this previous Bird Steward Article on Safe Nesting Materials for Birds).

While it may be nice to put up a house for a specific bird species, other birds may want to use the house once parents are done with it for the season. Birds use houses to escape prey as well as escape the elements.

In general, you should place a birdhouse somewhere it will get some leaf coverage, to shade it from hot mid-day temperatures. Also, ensure that the entrance faces away from prevailing winds.

Plant trees on your property. A hospitable environment for parents and fledglings includes planting trees that will help camouflage, feed, and protect birds against the elements.

Resident birds offer tremendous benefits to humans as well. Birds and bats are the most efficient and healthiest implementers of insect control. Birds also pollinate our plants and trees. Lastly, preserving biodiversity has innumerable ecosystem benefits (again a topic for a later article).

purplemartinhouse
Purple Martins are insectivores and a North American songbird in decline. They strongly benefit from human-created birdhouses.

Lastly, by providing houses for the birds in your backyard you are ensuring greater survival of their offspring.

The birds thank you!