Spring is at last here. It reminds me that it’s time to visit bluebird houses, wood duck boxes, and other bird houses that I’ve scattered around my home and elsewhere, and open each one of them and clean out the old nests and discover if any birds of any feather had occupied the structures last nesting season. Sometimes I find a surprise, like a white-footed deer mouse or a flying squirrel occupying a house or two, too.
Making the rounds on an annual basis to clean your birdhouses makes sense for many reasons. For starters, it gives you the opportunity to evaluate the overall condition of your birdhouses. By taking with you the necessary tools, you will be able repair any damage sustained since the house was last occupied.
Checking each of your nest boxes will also help you identify those houses that might need to be relocated. For example, I know from experience that if you are interested in keeping your birdhouses free of house wrens you should make sure you place houses away from trees and shrubs. House wrens, for example, favor boxes near shelterbelts and woodlots.
Not that there’s anything wrong with house wrens, for I happen to enjoy the song of the male wren immensely, but those busy little wrens quite often stuff more than one box full of sticks as the male of the species has a habit of doing. It’s all a part of the mating ritual as the incredibly active and vocal house wren builds nest after nest in his bid to impress a receptive female with his nest-building prowess. Meanwhile, some of the false nests, as they are called, will often remain unoccupied for the entire nesting season.
Still, too, cleaning your birdhouses helps to rid the box of last year’s parasites. Many parasites can survive the winter inside old nesting material and are present and active when birds return in the spring. Moreover, having a clean and empty box ready for the returning migrants is just good practice. Many birds will build nests on top of old nests, but it is best to maintain the boxes every year and to provide them with something clean, fresh, empty and available.
It also makes sense, if you can, to add new houses if you can. The number of available natural and artificial cavities limits the number of cavity-nesting birds. So, adding more birdhouses here and there might improve your odds of attracting a few more pairs of your favorite birds.
There’s often not a lot to do during the month of March and early April. As such, at least in my book, this is the perfect time for checking nest boxes. If you have nest boxes on your property now is the time to do a little "house cleaning" by performing any necessary repairs, adding wood shavings to your wood duck houses, or just sprucing them up.
Regarding wood duck nest box maintenance, the ice is still safe to walk on, sleds filled with gear are easily pulled across snow and ice, and the wood ducks are still about a month away from returning to the Northland. Furthermore, there's also plenty of time to construct and install a few nest boxes on your property or on the property of someone you know.
If you’re interested in do-it-yourself bird house construction projects, plenty of bird house designs are available on the Internet. When I typed “bird house designs” into my Internet search engine, I was presented with a dizzying collection of bird box possibilities. Moreover, if you’re uninterested or unable to build a bird house yourself, you can easily find manufactured bird houses or bird house kits of all kinds—bluebird, house wren, purple martin, wood duck, and many other structures available to order from reputable companies.
After many years of thinking about it, I’ve made up my mind that this is the year I will order a purple martin house and pole kit to erect on my property adjacent to Assawa Lake. In a quick Internet search I easily found an affordable 12-hole martin house and pole kit from a company called BirdNest.com.
And don’t forget bats! These unique flying mammals are quiet and beneficial little creatures that spend their time flying about capturing and eating flying insects, including mosquitoes, each and every night throughout the summer months. Bat houses can either be built or bought and will provide these special and important creatures a safe and warm environment to roost inside of.
Indeed, aside from providing bird, bats, and more with much needed nesting and roosting sites, the activity is great fun. As such, it’s time to think about spring, take a walk around your property, and to peek inside your structures or put out new ones. Doing so will rekindle thoughts of green grass, leaves on the trees, and singing birds and abundant wildlife as we get out and enjoy the great outdoors.
Blane likes to hear from his readers. Email him your favorite outdoors experiences and wildlife encounters at firstname.lastname@example.org.