What’s this? An egg? Where did winter go?
A discarded pigeon’s egg reminded me that spring is just around the corner and that nest boxes should be readied in anticipation. Ideally this is a job that should already have been done, so today was dedicated to cleaning out the boxes that dot Le Castille du Gannet. Lady Helen has a “Tut” that carries for miles through the still morning air and I could sense her disapproval from the top of my ladder. I looked down to see her, arms folded and lips pursed, watching me with disappointment written across her face.
“Why don’t you bring it down (rhymes with “line” when Lady Helen says it)? Wouldn’t that be safer?”
She had a point, but quite frankly the perils of balancing on a rickety ladder paled against the disapproval I was likely to get when she found out that I was using her rubber gloves. She watched for a while, hoping that I might do myself a mischief then, disappointed again, turned and left me to it. Now that it was safe to come down, I brought the box down with me and gave it a good scrub out.
This particular one had been used to fledge 3 Blue Tits last year so I put it back in the same spot hoping for similar success. Others hadn’t been used and I decided to reposition them. If you have room for only one nest box in your garden, target a likely species and select a suitable style of box with the appropriate entrance opening.
As important as the style of box is the position in which you site it. Fixing height can be critical, as can the direction that it faces. Find a site which offers some protection from the sun during the heat of the day and which allows a direct approach. Each family of birds have different requirements, so make sure that you match the box with a corresponding opening, site and height.
Think like a predator. Could a cat easily reach the box? is there a convenient perch for a hawk to ambush tired parent birds during their endless feeding shuttles?
If you are lucky to have a bit more space, try different styles of boxes to attract as many species as you can. You don’t have to use shop-built boxes. Wrens for example might use anything that will support their nest. We did have a tragedy last year when a pair of Great Tits nested in the post box and the eggs got lightly poached in the hot, metal box.
While we bathe in the balmy warmth from the tropical air flow, spring seems so close. Even if you are suffering sub-zero temperatures, spring is still coming and the birds will be looking for nesting sites before you know it. Don’t delay, get those boxes ready. Visit Cornell University’s Nest Watch page for all your USA nest-boxing needs.
Thanks for this post! It’s been such a busy year thus far I had almost forgotten to clean out my nest boxes and reevaluate their locations as many of them were used, but abandoned due to what I believe were less than ideal conditions. Would you have any tips on how far apart to set nesting boxes for the different species of birds or perhaps you’ve already addressed this in a previous post and could direct me. Again, thank you! Love the blog and birding!!
@Jennifer, thank you for your comment.
Check the boxes carefully before considering them as abandoned. Unless you have been watching them 24 hours a day, it might be possible that chicks fledged while you were looking elsewhere.
Birds choose their nesting sites with care and evidence that some where used show that you have positioned your boxes with thought.
Nests might sometimes be abandoned due to adverse weather conditions, poor food availability, predators, infant mortality, etc….
I would be reluctant to advise you on the positioning of your boxes further than the generic info I have mentioned above. This website is Americentric, but is popular in many countries with different birds which have different nesting requirements.
If I were to assume that you are from the USA, I would steer you in the direction of Cornell University’s Nest Watch page. A link has been included in the updated post.
Don’t tell The Management. Directing traffic away from the blog brings a mandatory 3-day binocular confiscation.