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February is The Month To Help the Homeless

(Cavity Nesting Birds, Of Course)

February, 2012



You my think it’s winter but New Jersey’s cavity nesting birds are already looking for prospective nest sites. In a few short weeks they will select the perfect place raise their first (and in some cases only) brood of the season.


“The time to put up next boxes is NOW,” chorus the experts at New Jersey Audubon’s stores. If you want to share your yard with Eastern Bluebirds, chickadees, Tufted Titmice and Eastern Screech Owls this year you better get your bird boxes up fast or wait till next year.


Birds that use natural cavities in trees begin the season early. Sheltered by an insulating wall of wood they get a jump on species that build nests in the open. Some cavity nesters, like woodpecker, excavate their own cavities. But many other species adopt, even co-opt nest cavities. That is precisely why commercial bird boxes are so readily accepted by so many species. The trick is getting the right sized box for the birds that live in your neighborhood–and knowing how and where to erect it so that birds will accept it.


“You start with the right material,” counsels Pete Dunne, of New Jersey Audubon and author on many books on birds and bird watching. Commercial bird boxes are made of lots of different material but so far nobody has come up with anything better than wood.”


Boxes need to be constructed of lumber thick enough to insulate nestlings from heat and cold and have drain ports in the floor for rainwater to escape. They need to be rough cut on the inside so that nestlings can climb to the opening when they fledge.


Nest boxes should never come with an outside perch. It invites nest predators like snakes. Quality boxes come with a hinged side so that old nest material can be removed at the end of the season so the box is ready for next year’s tenant.


Of course New Jersey Audubon’s nest boxes meet all these standards, and more. New Jersey Audubon’s special line of bird boxes is made of locally grown and milled native white cedar. It’s built to our specs and every purchase supports New Jersey Audubon’s mission.


What sized box is right for you?  It depends upon where you live and what birds live near you.


If you live near fields and farmland, Eastern Bluebirds or Tree Swallows are likely tenants. If your home is surrounded by woodlands, chickadees, titmice and Great-crested Flycatchers are your neighbors and easily attracted to bird boxes.


House Wrens and Carolina Wrens are common in suburbia. American Kestrels, small falcons, require lots of open country but Eastern Screech-Owls are widespread and probably nesting in a corner woodlot near you


Wood Ducks? The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge has one of the nation’s highest densities of breeding Wood Ducks (and the birds may nest hundreds of yards from water).


Nest boxes are not one size fits all. The right sized box and the right sized hole not only catch the prospecting eyes of different species but insure their safety as well.


Holes small enough for chickadees and wrens are too small to allow access by usurping species like European Starling. Where a raccoon might reach a hand into a box big enough accommodate a Great-crested Flycatcher, a Bluebird sized opening will protect nestlings.


So NOW is the time to put up nest boxes and New Jersey Audubon is your nest box resource. Stop by and be impressed by our line of quality bird boxes.