Bird-watching is a fun, fascinating and educational hobby the entire family can enjoy from the comfort of home. Bird houses are a great way to attract these awe-inspiring creatures to your corner of the world, providing them a safe place to feed and nest where you can observe them up close. Bird houses come in so many sizes, styles, and types that you may not know where to start. Pronto’s Bird House Buying Guide will help you determine how to bring birds to your backyard and how to keep your avian friends happy in their new home.
Some decorative bird houses are a poor environment for birds, so look for a basic, functional model. Find out what kind of birds live in your area and choose a bird house that’s designed for those birds.
Look for a wooden bird house with a wood roof that extends an inch or two over the opening to provide protection from the elements. Avoid metal roofs that can heat up in the sun and make interior temperatures dangerous for chicks. Choose a birdhouse without a perch and with an entrance hole that’s 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter to keep birds safe from predators.
Most birds are happy with a single room, but some species like to nest communally and prefer bird houses with multiple rooms that each have an entrance opening. Look for grooves beneath the inside entrance opening that allow young birds to get out when they’re ready to fly.
In general, a bird house should be between 4 and 10 feet above the ground. A simple, freestanding metal pole provides the best protection from squirrels. If you plan to have more than one bird house, try to allow 100 feet of space between each one.
Some birds nest throughout the year, and non-migrating birds need winter shelter, so a bird house can be installed at any time. With regular cleaning, a bird house will last 10 years. Consider getting a bird house kit as a fun activity for the family.
A circular opening cut into one side of a bird house that allows birds to come and go. Most birds are happy with an entrance hole that is 1 to 1.5 inches.
A panel on the back of a bird house that swings open, allowing you to see the nest or clean the bird house at the end of each season.
A single birdhouse that is subdivided into several separate interior compartments, each with its own entrance hole.
A wooden dowel that extends from just beneath the entrance hole of a bird house. Birds typically will not perch on these, and it’s best to choose a bird house without one, as they make it easier for predators to access the nest.
An area around the nest, usually including the birds’ feeding habitat, that most backyard birds will defend.
Some bird houses are, simply, not for the birds. They may be pretty to look at, or match the colors of your house, but they may not provide the best environment for your feathered friends and, in fact, may even be harmful to them. Depending on what birds are native to your area, what other wildlife lives in your area and how much time you can devote to maintaining the bird house, you can find one that’s best suited to the birds in your yard that also let you watch them to the fullest.
To get the most enjoyment from your bird house, you’ll need to ensure it has occupants. Find out what the most common bird species are in your area. You can do this by simple observation or identifying the birds you see with a guide book; many newspapers also publish bird-watching reports that tally the numbers and kinds of birds seen in the vicinity. Different types of birds prefer different types of houses, so you will want to select a house that’s appropriate for the varieties of birds who live nearby.
Construction of the bird house is important, both from a materials and a design standpoint. Non-toxic materials are a must, and wooden bird houses are most like the natural environment. Avoid metal roofs that absorb heat, causing the temperature inside a bird house to rise to levels that are dangerous for hatchlings.
A bird house’s interior should not have any paint or stain, as this could be poisonous to its residents. You should also treat the inside of the bird house’s roof with bar soap, which will repel insects. A good bird house will have a hinged top or side, so that you can peek in to see the nest and chicks, and also so you can clean it thoroughly after each brood flies the coop. The bird house’s roof should overhang one or two inches past the top of the wall that holds the entrance opening, giving some extra protection from the elements.
Bird houses are available in various sizes, and the dimensions of your bird house should, again, be based on which kinds of birds are most likely to take up residence in it. Most types of birds prefer a one-room box, but others, such as purple martins, nest in groups and will want a bird house with at least four rooms and four openings. It’s important that your bird house has proper ventilation and drainage. If it fills with rain, chicks will drown. If air does not circulate well, the bird house will overheat.
Your bird house should be designed to provide easy access for its inhabitants, easy access for you, and no access to predators and pests. The bird house’s entrance hole should be only large enough to accommodate the birds you wish to live in it; generally a 1- to 1.5-inch-diameter hole is sufficient. Bigger holes invite predators—hawks and squirrels, for instance—to invade the bird house and kill the chicks or to evict the occupants and take over the box for their own.
Birds do not need a perch outside a bird house’s entrance hole. In fact, your bird house should not have an exterior perch, as it may allow predators to gain access to the bird house. The height of the entrance hole from the bird-house floor is another thing to evaluate. Make sure that a bird house has some grooves on the inside wall beneath the entrance opening. These grooves make it easier for young birds to leave the bird house when they are ready to fly.
Once you’ve found the right bird house, where and how should you hang it? Some birds prefer to nest at higher elevations, but anywhere between 4 and 10 feet off the ground is the general rule of thumb. A bird house that stands at the top of a simple, metal pole will be safest from attack by squirrels.
Position the bird house away from prevailing winds and near a tree or bush where the birds can sit and observe their house easily from outside. The bird house’s opening should not face south or east, for too much sunlight and warmth will disturb the birds inside.
You may be lucky enough to have birds take up residence in your bird house within hours of its installation. If the bird house is not used within a few months, try a new location. If you plan to have multiple bird houses in your yard, each one should have at least a 100-square-foot area to itself. Birds are territorial and they like their privacy.
Birds search for their nesting place in the final days of winter and in the early spring, but don’t let that stop you from putting up a bird house at other times of the year. Birds are known for being fickle and fussy, and they may change their minds about their original home. Many species of birds nest more than once a year. Non-migrating birds will look for bird houses as shelter during the winter months.
Bird houses run from under $25 to over $700. If you are feeling handy, build-your-own bird house kits are a great way to make your new hobby even more fun. The entire family can work together, and then enjoy the fruits of their labor watching beautiful birds nest and raise their chicks right outside your window. With proper care and cleaning, a well-made wooden bird house should last you and your yard-mates about 10 years.
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