|Birdhouses are a great way to provide shelter and a place for wild birds to raise their young.
Many websites detail the different plans, as your birdhouse should be built specifically to the
type of bird you wish to attract.
Click here for birdhouse info site 1
Click here for birdhouse info site 2
Birdhouses do not need a perch on the outside of their houses and a perch can actually give a predator a place to
balance while reaching in for the eggs or young birds.
Your birdhouse should have a predator guard built onto the entrance hole to help protect eggs or young birds
against predators (raccoons, grackles, jays, etc) that can reach into nest boxes.
Your birdhouse should also have ventilation holes in the top of the birdhouse to provide air circulation inside the
house, and to let hot air escape during warm weather. Additionally, there should be drainage holes in the bottom of
If you put up a birdhouse you should be sure to maintain it! Clean birdhouses well every spring to ward off disease
and insect infestation (clean them every spring at the minimum, some people clean theirs after each brood has
fledged, because a lot of cavity nesting birds will not nest again in a box full of old nesting).Unfortunately, just as we
have discussed invasive plants on another page, there are also invasive birds (such as house sparrows and
starlings) that have made survival more difficult for some of our native birds. Our Massachusetts native Eastern
Bluebird, for example, was once threatened by house sparrows and starlings that were taking most cavity sites, and
also aggressively damaging & destroying other species nearby nests. This has improved by human intervention &
Part of having a bird house is the need to monitor your boxes for unwanted creatures such as house sparrows,
starlings, rodents, snakes, insects. We have been lucky that so far no invasive species have attempted to use our
nest boxes. We have seen some sites that recommend killing the invasive species, but we would not choose that
path for ourselves. Unable to harm anyone, we have been told that if an invasive species tries to use the boxes we
should just keep removing the nesting material until they give up, which they will eventually.
You should NOT use any type of pressure-treated wood to build birdhouses - the chemicals used are toxic to birds.
Also avoid wood that has been painted or has had polyurethane applied to it. You need to make sure that the wood
was not treated with creosote nor painted with a paint containing lead.
If you find a baby bird that has fallen out of the nest: Pick it up and put it back. Most birds cannot smell well. It is a
myth that they will not care for their baby.
|Consider a roost box in addition to your birdhouses.
|Roost boxes allow birds to huddle and congregate together, especially useful during periods of cold weather. A
roosting box will protect many birds from extreme winter conditions. Roost boxes are built differently than
birdhouses, usually no ventilation holes are needed (to keep in warmth), and the entrance hole is towards the
bottom of the box.
|Bird Feeding/Bird Feeders
|There are four classifications of bird foods: Insects, Seeds, Fruits & Berries, and
General Feeders: we have both tray and hanging feeders. At first we struggled
with squirrels, pigeons, starlings (they swarm and eat everything, leaving just a
huge mess and no food). We were pleased to find that the weighted feeders that
are sold commercially do work effectively to keep larger birds and squirrels off (We
now offer a separate squirrel feeder that offers peanuts).
As far as the tray feeder we added beams to close it off, and our larger birds such
Blue Jays & Mourning Doves (yes, even the occasional Starling) CAN eat from it,
but the pigeons aren't able to get inside. (See left) We have nothing against
pigeons, and find them quite beautiful. Their bad reputation they have in some
areas of America is undeserved, and they are a cherished addition to some
European cities. It is just they will eat every scrap of food you offer!
Using cheap seed is not a good idea. Birds will "paw" through to get the seeds
they like, and will make a mess and waste seed. You will actually get more for your
money with seed that is better quality even if it is more expensive.
|We write down the day we see the first hummingbird every year, and the past 2
years it has been May 5th and May 6th, so our feeders go out at the end of April,
and they stay out until quite late into the fall, as you may get late migrating birds
who appreciate your help.
We make our own nectar by boiling 3.75 - 4 cups water with 1 cup sugar, boiling
for 2 minutes. Obviously you must let it cool before serving, but also, if you keep
any refrigerated, always let it warm first before giving it to your hummingbirds. The
nectar (sugar water) should be changed about every 3-5 days, and more
frequently in hot weather. You can do more harm than good if you do not keep
your feeders maintained! Do Not use bleach to clean hummingbird feeders.
|*Tip: Our Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds love Massachusetts native Cardinal Flowers!
*Note: We have heard two stories now about a person who put out a tray of grape jelly (Baltimore Orioles like grape
jelly and oranges), and later found a dead hummingbird in the jelly. Be very careful with placement of buckets of
open water, grape jelly, etc, and NEVER follow the recommendation of some who say use grease or Vaseline on
poles to ward off ants - if it gets on your birds their feathers can become useless from the grease and they will die.
|In our yard many varieties of birds like the suet feeders, especially woodpeckers,
Chickadees, and Baltimore Orioles. If you provide suet, don't let it sit long in hot
weather. Suet can go bad quickly and harm your birds. Also it can become greasy
and sticky, and can become difficult for the birds to get off their feathers. There is
suet that is called heat-resistant or rendered that will last longer in warmer
weather. If you have an issue with starlings consuming every scrap of your suet,
you can make or buy a starling-proof suet feeder. (We handmade ours - see left)
Starlings and some other species cannot cling upside down, so it restricts what
species are able to utilize the feeder.
|Other Bird Feeding Tips
|Don't cut down your perennials after flowering. Wait until spring, as the leftover seed on these perennials will feed
your bird friends long into the winter and the plants themselves will provide cover.
Plant native berry bearing bushes to provide winter food for birds & wildlife.
Plant nectar rich native shrubs and plants for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Birds seek out salt, calcium, and grit such as dirt for digestion. We offer these in a covered tray feeder in winter as
they can be hard to come by at that time.
|Water is essential.
|Wildlife of every kind needs water to survive. Offering even a small water source or birdbath is often greatly
appreciated. You will draw even more birds if the water can be heard (a dripper or fountain). We also have a heated
birdbath, and water is available year round and very popular!
A. Most birdbaths are too deep. The center should be no more than 3 inches deep and the edges even more
shallow. You can put rocks in yours to make it shallower if needed. Some commercial "beautiful" birdbaths have
slippery bottoms and sometimes the birds will avoid using it. Rough bottoms or rocks are best for your birds.
B. Water sources must be kept clean. You can do more harm than good by not keeping feeders or baths clean, as
disease can affect all or any birds and wildlife in your yard. Also, frequent cleaning will decrease mosquitoes that
may try to use the source to breed.
*REMINDER: It is your responsibility to keep your feeders and water sources clean and to clean up old seed under
your feeders. Several lethal diseases can be transmitted between birds at feeders and birdbaths. If you notice
disease, you can report it (try calling your local vet if you aren't sure who to call) and probably should investigate
further. We had seen a few finches with what appeared to be an eye disease, and through that found out about
finch conjunctivitis. Please protect your birds as best you can!
|Avoid the use of chemicals in your yard
|(Weed & bug killers, lawn fertilizers, etc).
Click here for important info on chemical use
|Offer undisturbed sections of your yard.
|Offer quiet areas and shrub thickets, and you may find more success in attracting species you may not often see, as
some birds prefer their privacy.
|Make a dust bath.
|Dust is used as a cleaning agent for birds and animals whose feathers or fur are protected from water by a thin later
of natural oil. A nice sunny spot in your garden is perfect to keep the soil dry and sandy. Click here for more info on
how to make a dust bath.
|Put out nesting material for your birds.
|Give your birds only natural fibers such as cotton. Do not offer plastic or nylon in any form, including fishing line. Cut
pieces less than 4 inches, as long strands may entangle adult birds and nestlings and cause them to be strangled.
Birds also like pets hair and human hair, so throw them the hair stuck in your brushes and grooming tools.
*Note: You may want to have a mud puddle nearby, as certain birds use mud to build their nests (Robins, for one).
|Participate in a backyard bird count.
|The Great Backyard Bird Count is an event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-
time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to
experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.
Mass Audubon conducts different surverys, and so do other organizations. Mass Audubon recently expanded its
efforts to engage volunteers to report on Massachusetts bird life, including Focus on Feeders, Oriole and Whip-
poor-will Projects, and the Breeding Bird Atlas 2. They would gladly accept your participation. Click here for more
|KEEP YOUR CATS INDOORS!!!
|We love cats, but do not foolishly disregard the damage cats can do to the native environment. They are an
introduced, invasive species and can have a definite negative impact on our native wildlife. If you let your cats out,
PLEASE take a moment to read the following articles and RECONSIDER.
|*It is helpful to get a bird and wildlife information or identification guide for the area you live in and evaluate what
species you could see in your backyard, and look those birds or species up to see what kinds of trees, shrubs,
annuals and perennials, etc or feeders to attract that type of bird or species specifically. However, if you try and
offer a wide variety of plantings, feeders, cover/shelter, and water sources, you never know what you will see!
|THE PLIGHT OF BIRDS - BUILDINGS
Wherever they fly—above cities, through suburban backyards, over country fields—birds face an indiscriminate
threat. Hurtling toward tall buildings, houses, shopping malls, even automobiles, they're unable to recognize clues
like sills or framework that might warn them to hit the brakes before they smash into a window. To an animal with a
literal bird's-eye view, the transparency and reflectivity of glass indicates smooth sailing ahead.
"Birds can respond to just a tiny spot of light, and what's more, they're flying," says ornithologist Daniel Klem, who
has studied the issue for three decades. "So their ability to fly makes them vulnerable because they can instantly
build up enough momentum to kill themselves. They could leave a perch on a twig of a tree or a bush just slightly
over 3 feet away and strike the glass. Unless your window's totally dirty or you've put something on it, these animals
are just deceived."
While most people have probably seen or heard a bird hitting a window on occasion, few realize how much the
numbers add up. Even back in the 1970s using field data he'd collected, Klem estimated that 1 in 10 birds fatally
strike each building in the U.S. every year. Based on census data, that’s 100 million to 1 billion birds annually, or
274,000 to 2.74 million per day.
Klem, a professor at Pennsylvania's Muhlenberg College, says these estimates have drawn skepticism not just from
architects, engineers, and other building industry professionals but from colleagues in the birding and conservation
fields. They don't believe the numbers because they don't see the carnage—fallen birds can be snatched by
predators, hidden in vegetation, squashed by pedestrians or street sweepers, or discarded by cleaning crews. Or
they might fly away and succumb to their injuries.
Long cautious about using the 1 billion figure for fear of being ridiculed or, worse, ignored, Klem now says the
estimate is conservative. The presence of glass, he says, is "exponentially higher'' than that of many other threats
such as pesticides, cats, and wind turbines. Short of habitat destruction, he believes it's the greatest human-related
cause of mortality to birds.
Glass is equally deceiving whether it's transparent (birds see a clear flight path ahead) or reflective (they think
they're flying into trees or sky). Birds face an additional challenge as they fly over cities at night, relying on the stars
and moon to navigate. Lights shining from the buildings below attract them, says Michael Mesure, executive director
of Toronto's Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP). "They will either collide outright with those structures, or they
circle in that lit-up source until they drop with exhaustion."
Once on the ground, the birds may fly into lit lobby windows in an attempt to reach the light source. As day breaks,
they try to fly over and over into the virtual habitat reflected in the windows or to the indoor plants and trees visible
Since 1993, FLAP has pioneered efforts to rescue birds and persuade building managers to turn off lights at night
and add features that deter birds by day. Groups in other hot spots on birds' migratory pathways have followed
suit—first in New York and later in places like Minnesota's Twin Cities and Wisconsin's Green Bay. In 2004, Chicago
became the first U.S. city to "go dark" at night during spring and fall migrations, says Annette Prince, director of the
Chicago Bird Collision Monitors.
In each of these cities, volunteers scour downtown areas for injured birds and triage them on-site or take them to
wildlife rehabilitators. They collect data to show building managers just how deadly their structures can be. They
help the managers make the buildings less dangerous by rearranging indoor and outdoor plants and installing glass
treatments, shielded lighting, and motion sensor lights.
The strategies work: "The reduced lighting has definitely ended having a [single] night where one particular building
can have just hundreds and hundreds of birds impacted," Prince says. And government partnerships have proved
promising. Working with FLAP, Toronto's city council has adopted guidelines that encourage the use of less lethal
features in building designs. (New York City's Audubon Society, which has its own window strike program, has
developed similar recommendations.) FLAP members hope the guidelines will someday be included in North
American green building standards.
While these urban rescuers are motivated by the chance to save individual birds, the scale of their efforts makes it
clear that something bigger is at stake.
In Toronto, FLAP has picked up more than 40,000 birds since 1993, or about 2,900 a year—"a fraction of the birds
who are colliding" says Mesure. With 940,000 structures in the city, he believes 1 million to 10 million birds might
strike each year. In the spring of 2007 alone, Prince's group found 1,500 birds in the 1 square mile of downtown
Chicago it patrols.
What's more, Prince says, it's a common misperception that only "city birds" such as pigeons, sparrows, or starlings
strike glass. More than 220 species in the U.S. and Canada have been known to fly into windows, and Prince notes
that Chicago volunteers find endangered birds and members of species that some birders wait their whole lives to
When faced with "compensatory" factors like starvation or predation, the strongest animals can survive and help a
given population rebound from year to year. But glass is what scientists call an "additive" factor—it affects the fit and
unfit members of a species alike, and populations must struggle to recover from the damage it causes on top of a
host of other natural stresses.
"[Glass is] taking out perhaps the best hope of a species," Prince says. "It's also taking out birds whose numbers are
already highly threatened by other causes, and they can ill afford additional losses."
Although glass presents a huge threat, it's one that people may be able to manage—by modifying their homes,
educating other homeowners and property managers, and working with glass manufacturers to develop a bird-
friendly products. The efforts in Chicago, New York, and Toronto are serving as templates for grassroots programs
in other places that make cities safer for birds, one building at a time.
"With a few simple steps, an incredible number of birds can be saved," says John Hadidian, director of The HSUS's
Urban Wildlife Program, which advises grassroots groups and homeowners on the issue. "Education, research,
community action—those are the keys right now. It's one of those issues where people really can make a difference."
HSUS All Animals Magazine Spring 2008