Spring is in the air…finally!
After what feels like a long and very cold winter, it’s finally beginning to feel like spring, even though our gardens are still covered with snow.
But the birds are getting ready for spring now. The White-throated Sparrows are singing their “Old Sam Peabody” song and the red wing black birds are making their conk-la-ree! sound in the fields.
Today I watched a male Chickadee perched atop my birdhouse (which is still covered in snow, too) as he puffed out his chest and sang “Chicadee, dee, dee, dee, dee” over and over again.
Pretty soon he was rewarded when his mate came in to check out his potential choice of housing. Apparently she likes it, because she kept going back inside.
Now is the time to make sure your bird houses are clean and ready to go. Take a good look at your houses. Most of them are built so that you can take either the roof or the floor off so that you can clean them out. Some have sliding sides, but most houses have some type of access.
Empty out last year’s nests, and wipe the box down with a mild bleach solution. Replace the roof (or floor) and hang the box back up because soon it will become home to a new brood of baby birds.
Remove the old nest carefully and take a good look at it. Can you tell who built the nest? You can learn so much about your backyard birds by looking at their nests.
For example, Chickadees make a very neat nest with moss and lichen (and even dog hair) woven in. House Wrens, on the other hand, build a very messy nest that often look like just a pile of sticks, often with ribbon, plastic bags, and other trash woven in.
Check out Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds Nests to learn which birds have nested in your bird houses. This is a great activity to do with your children or grandchildren to teach them about the different birds that make their homes in your wildlife garden.
What birds nest in your wildlife garden?
This is also a great time to get out and put up some new bird houses!
Knowing when to put up birdhouses is essential for birders to attract nesting birds to their yard or garden. For cavity-nesting birds, houses can provide the perfect place to build a nest, and other species may also use birdhouses as temporary shelters. If the houses aren’t up, however, they can’t be used. So when is the bird nesting season, and when should birdhouses be ready to host new feathered families?
When Birds Use Birdhouses
Different bird species nest at different times. The earliest nesting birds may begin investigating potential nest sites and birdhouses as part of claiming territory or their courtship rituals as early as January or February (July or August in the Southern Hemisphere). Other birds may not nest until later in the season, but they may still use any available houses as shelters from predators, cold temperatures, and poor weather both before and after the nesting season. Birds that raise multiple broods each season often nest earlier as well. If a house is not up when these birds are ready to lay their first eggs, they may still investigate it as a nesting site later in the season.
Best Time to Put Up Birdhouses
There is no bad time to put up birdhouses, and the best time to put them up is as soon as you have them available. Even if it is not nesting season, birds may investigate the house, learn where it is, and possibly use it as shelter. More If you only want to provide houses for nesting, putting them up in late winter or very early spring will ensure they are available for even the earliest nesting species.
Birders who want to offer birdhouses only to a specific type of bird, such as bluebirds, can learn when the best time to put up bird houses for that species may be.
If the birds have been visiting your yard for several years, note when they first arrive each spring and put up the birdhouses just a week or two before their expected appearance. This will minimize the risk of other birds taking over the houses while still providing shelter for the birds you want to see. If you haven’t seen the birds in your yard before, contact local birding groups to learn when they generally arrive in the region so you can be ready for their arrival and nesting needs.
If you miss putting up birdhouses as early as possible, there is still time to attract nesting birds. Many bird species lay more than one brood each year and they often investigate different nest sites each time, so a late birdhouse may be perfect for a second or even a third brood. Similarly, many birds will restart their nesting efforts if poor weather, predators, or brood parasites destroy a first nest. A birdhouse that may not have been available earlier can be the perfect option for renewing a nest.
Tips for Attracting Birds to Birdhouses
No matter when you put up birdhouses, there are ways to make them more attractive to birds looking for a home for their new family.
- Choose a safe birdhouse design that will protect the nesting birds from poor weather and predators, but will be comfortable for both adults and chicks
- Check that the entrance hole size is appropriate for the birds you want to use the house so larger, more aggressive birds cannot take over and invaders cannot reach inside.
- Position the birdhouse carefully so it is sheltered from inclement weather but not too far from food to help overworked parents.
- Mount the house firmly so it does not sway, wiggle, or move as birds enter and exit, which can discourage wary or overprotective parents.
- If a family does move in, monitor them properly if desired, but do so discreetly to keep from frightening or stressing parent birds and delicate chicks.
- Clean the birdhouse after the nest is empty or at the end of the nesting season to keep it from harboring mice, insects, or parasites that can harm birds.
- Take steps to attract birds to your yard, including offering nesting materials, to make the overall habitat ideal for nesting birds.
It is never too late or too early to put up birdhouses, but birders who know when to put up their houses will have the best success attracting the birds they want to nest nearby.