Monitoring your Nest Box
Here's how to check your nest boxes:
Watch the nest for awhile. If you don't see or hear any birds, go over and tap on the box. If you hear bird sounds, open the top and take a quick peek inside. If everything's okay, close the box. If you see problems (parasites or predators), remove them and close the box.
Here's where a bird house with easy access makes the job simple. Most bird houses can be opened from the top, the side, the front, or the bottom.
Boxes that open from the top and the front provide the easiest access. Opening the box from the top is less likely to disturb nesting birds. It's impossible to open a box from the bottom without the nest falling out. While side- and front-opening boxes are convenient for cleaning and monitoring, they have one drawback: the nestlings may jump out.
If this happens, don't panic. Just pick them up and put them back in the nest. Don't worry that the adults will reject the nestlings if you handle them. That's a myth. Most birds have a terrible sense of smell.
If you clean out your nest boxes after each brood has fledged, several pairs may use the nest throughout the summer. Many cavity nesting birds will not nest again in a box full of old nesting materials.
In the fall, after you've cleaned out your nest boxes for the last time, you can put them in storage or leave them out. Gourds and pottery last longer if you take them in for the winter. You can leave your purple martin houses up, but be sure to plug the entrance holes to discourage starlings and house sparrows.
Leaving your wood and concrete houses out provides shelter for birds, flying squirrels, and other animals during winter.
Each spring be sure to clean out all houses you've left out for the winter.
Proper box depth, roof, and entrance hole design will help minimize predator (raccoons, cats, opossums, and red squirrels) access. Sometimes all it takes is an angled roof with a three-inch overhang to discourage mammals.
The entrance hole is the only thing between a predator and a bird house full of nestlings. By itself, the 3/4" wall isn't wide enough to keep out the arm of a rat or house cat.
Add a predator guard, a 3/4 inch thick rectangular wood block, to thicken the wall, and you'll discourage sparrows, starlings, and cats.
This article was written by the DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
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