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Next Boxes – Planning for Next Year
Wednesday July 10, 2019   |
Although this Eastern Screech Owl is using a natural tree cavity, there is a scarcity of natural cavities and woodpecker excavated cavities for cavity nesting birds, large and small.
You can build nest boxes to attract specific species, or buy an attractive birdhouse from a variety of wild bird stores. This Duncraft Eco-Friendly Wren House, constructed with recycled materials, is being inspected by a Carolina Wren.
Large cavities are in short supply, so birders provide a conservation service by installing big nest boxes. This big nest box has been used successfully for several nesting seasons by Barred Owls in Jim Carpenter’s yard.


Next Boxes – Planning for Next Year

Nest box season is almost complete and we hope you had a lot of fun and witnessed a lot of fledgling production in the nest boxes you have installed, maintained, and monitored. Nest boxes, a.k.a. birdhouses, are used by 88 species of cavity nesting birds that normally rely on natural tree cavities or woodpecker-excavated nesting cavities. Natural cavities are in short supply in many areas due to a number of reasons, including land use, landscaping trends, and competition. That’s where we come in – providing more nesting cavity options by installing nest boxes. It’s a particularly valuable effort of bird conservation by birders!

Certainly, cavity nesting species include many popular backyard birds including bluebirds, chickadees, wrens, and Tree Swallows; along with some especially interesting species such as Prothonotary Warblers, Great Crested Flycatchers, and Juniper Titmice, as well as the larger cavity nesters such as Wood Ducks, kestrels, screech owls, Hooded Mergansers, Barn Owls, and Barred Owls.

Now that your nest box season is winding down, and even before you begin cleaning and maintaining your existing nest boxes, it may be time to reflect on the advances you made this year with your birdhouse efforts, and to consider how you can improve and even expand your nest box endeavors. Perhaps there is a certain species you would like to attract to a new nest box – maybe a pair of Prothonotary Warblers or Ash-throated Flycatchers, depending on your location.

Maybe you would like to expand a nest box trail, which are often developed especially for bluebirds, but benefit a variety of other cavity nesters, including Tree Swallows. Perhaps you would like to move a nest box or two to better locations or to better habitat to attract the birds you would like to focus on.

With that in mind, you may wish to start shopping for an appropriate-sized nest box so you can install it this summer or fall, so it’s ready and waiting for nesting birds next spring. Or perhaps you plan to build a nest box or boxes – summer is a great time to share a birding project with children.

While there is a short supply of large nesting cavities in the field, there’s even a shortage of big nest boxes across most of the country, so it’s a worthy effort to add a big nest box or two to your property, or an abandoned farmstead or rural park – with permission of course. Larger cavity nesting species will benefit from such additions, including American Kestrels, Wood Ducks, and a variety of owls including Eastern and Western Screech Owls, Northern Saw-whet Owls, Barn Owls, and Barred Owls. Don’t forget one of the very important ingredients for planning and installing a new big nest box or two: A lot of patience.

You may be lucky and have birds use your nest box without delay next spring, but you also need to have lots of patience, especially with big nest boxes. Remember, it took eight years for Jim Carpenter’s big nest box to have a pair of Barred Owls lay the first clutch of eggs in it. Now Jim’s nest may be the most well-known and most observed big nest box of all, thanks to a great live video cam feed. Not all nest boxes and birdhouses are utilized, but it’s always worth a try, and if a nest box goes unused over time, you can always move it and see if another location makes a difference.

Then too, keep competition with non-native birds such as House Sparrows and European Starlings in mind, and don’t forget to ensure that all your nest boxes are protected from predators. To get a comprehensive overview about nest box birding, be sure to check out the Cornell Lab’s NestWatch webpage at Features of a Good Birdhouse - NestWatch

Plus to see a comprehensive list of cavity nesting birds with nest box plans for each species, go to the bottom of the page athttps://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/

And for a little extra inspiration, you can see some highlights of last year’s nesting season at Jim Carpenter’s backyard Barred Owl nest box at WBU Barred Owl Cam | Interior and Exterior Owl Nest Box Camera Views

Share your backyard birding experiences and photos at editorstbw2@gmail.com

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