By Eleanor Foerste, UF/IFAS Osceola County Extension
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are great times to reflect on good times and to build new memories with your extended family. One activity that is fun for all ages is building and installing bird houses!
I remember building a martin house with my grandfather. It was so exciting putting it together, hoisting it into the air on a long pole and then watching and waiting for the birds to move in. Little did I know that the reason we built it was as much for the family bonding time as it was for the birds.
Bird houses come in kits or can be purchased pre-assembled. You will find them in various styles and materials. With so many choices, what should you choose? It depends on what birds you hope to attract. Some birds build nests anywhere, like the wrens that nest in plants on my porch. Others only build nests in trees and shrubs.
Bird houses mimic a natural nest cavity similar to hole in a dead tree or an old fence post. The hurricanes of 2004 and recent wind storms knocked down many of the old trees that were natural homes for birds. With the natural “housing stock” in decline, you can help by providing much needed housing.
Birds chose their homes like we do- location, location, location. If the surroundings provide the right habitat, that is food, water and cover to hide themselves and their young, then birds will look for nesting sites. If the house entry hole is a suitable size and the house is at a suitable height, they might decide to settle in your yard.
So how do you find out what is best? There are many online resources to help you learn which birds prefer what size entry hole and to identify what height is best to mount the home. A great resource before you go “house hunting” or start a construction project is “Helping Cavity Nesters in Florida” http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/UW/UW05800.pdf
Home security systems are important for us, but they are also important for birds. Nests in trees close to the ground are easy access for snakes, cats and raccoons. You can help your nesting birds and provide security for your new birdhouse by installing a metal or wire shield to make access more difficult for predators. Posts made of PVC plastic pipe or metal conduit are smooth and more difficult for some predators to climb.
Bluebirds are increasing in numbers in our area. Why not build a bluebird house and attract some to your yard? Our 4-H project booklet, “Bluebirds and Other Cavity-Nesting Birds: Youth Project Book,” includes plans and many interactive lessons for free download at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/4H/4H29000.pdf.