Gardens come alive when they’re filled with the music of wild birds. While some gardeners wait until spring to put up bird houses, you can add them to your yard anytime. Scout around now for a good location, so you’ll be ready when nesting season starts. Soon you’ll be watching fledglings take their first bumpy flights. (Image: Shutterstock/Heahter Reeder)
Bird houses come in a variety of styles, and some are more ornamental than others. If you don’t know which birds live in your area, do a little research online or at your local library. With the right box, you’ll have more success attracting feathered visitors to your yard. For example, there are boxes designed especially for wood ducks and owls. Robins will use a 3-sided box, while purple martins prefer a home with “apartments,” or space for multiple residents.
Types of Birdhouses
Whether you shop for a bird house or build your own, make sure its walls are thick enough to insulate against heat and cold. Your house also needs a sloped roof to keep out rain, and holes for ventilation and drainage. Use a guard like an inverted cone or squirrel baffle to keep out raccoons, opossums, and other predators.
Where To Put Your Birdhouse
Location is important when you’re looking for your own home, and it’s important to the birds, too. While you’re reading about the birds in your area, look for tips on where to site their houses. Different birds like to nest at different heights. Put the house in a safe spot a little distance away from feeders and bird baths (all that feeding and bathing activity can make nesting parents nervous). Most birds want a concealed or camouflaged area, with branches nearby for perching or protection.
- Mount the bird house on a pole, if possible. It’s easier for snakes, cats, raccoons, and other predators to get into houses attached to trees or walls.
- Leave about 100 yards between bluebird boxes, since “blues” like a lot of room.
- Don’t use more than one box per tree (unless your tree is really large).
- A rule of thumb is no more than four small nest boxes per species, per acre.
- If you live in a hot climate, position the house so the entrance hole faces north or east.
Build Your Own Birdhouse
Building your own bird house is a great family activity. Be creative with paints and trim. You might use the colors of your favorite sports team, or top the house with an old license plate for a roof. We’ll show you how here. You can also make one from a kit with pre-cut pieces.
Houses For Bluebirds
Bluebirds, with wings the color of the sky, are both beautiful and useful. Their diet consists of about 80% insects, so they devour beetles, grasshoppers, and other garden pests. Depending on where you live, you may see Western, Eastern, or Mountain Bluebirds. All these members of the thrush family live in cavities made by other birds or animals, or in special nest boxes.
You can build a box to invite bluebirds to your yard. Blues need houses with entrance holes that measure about 1-1/2″, to keep aggressive European starlings from moving in and taking over. They also prefer large, open areas with scattered trees. For detailed house plans, visit the North American Bluebird Society.
For Gardeners In Western Regions
You’ll recognize male Western bluebirds by their deep blue, white, and rusty-orange coloration. Females have gray-brown feathers with a blue tinge. Western blues are often spotting sitting on low perches, or swooping through the air in small flocks as they chase bugs. Year-round, they frequent California, the southern Rocky Mountains, Arizona, and New Mexico (except for desert areas). Image of Western bluebird: Shutterstock/Wildphoto3
For Gardeners In Eastern Regions
Male eastern bluebirds are a rich, royal blue with rusty breasts and throats, while females look grayish, with gray-blue wings and tails and rust-colored breasts. Eastern blues are commonly seen in meadows and fields; along roadsides; on golf courses; and in other open, wooded areas from the eastern U.S. to the Rocky Mountains. Image of Eastern bluebird: Shutterstock/Mike Truchon
For Gardeners In The Western Mountains
Mountain bluebirds are more sky-blue than their royal-blue relatives. They’re migratory birds that range across western North America and the mountains into Alaska. The colors of male mountain bluebirds become more subdued in winter. Females are brownish-blue overall, with pale blue tails and wings. Image of Mountain bluebird: Shutterstock/Steve Byland
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