BIRDS THAT LIVE IN NESTING BOXES.Bluebird—robin—chickadee—wren—house
Be Safe. Wear safety glasses and hearing protection when building bird houses.
Certain varieties of birds will nest in homes built for them if these houses are of the right shape and dimensions. Other birds may be just as desirable but do not build nests and rear their young in boy-made nesting boxes. We are therefore mainly concerned with the first group which select cavities in trees for their homes if nothing better is to be found.
This bird may be found during the summer months in most of the states east of the Rocky Mountains, Figs. 1 and 59. It spends its winter in the southern states and southward, returning north in March and April. The principal items of food are grasshoppers, caterpillars and beetles. It should have a house measuring about 5" in length and width, inside measurements, and 8" or more in depth. The entrance hole should be 1-1/2" in diameter and placed near the top, so that the young birds cannot get out until strong enough to have some chance of escape from their enemies after they leave the nest. While authorities differ as to the need of cleaning after a season's use, it seems wise to provide the house with some device whereby the bottom may be removed for such purposes. Houses for this species are shown in Figs. 11, 21, 22 and 24.
Robins usually announce the coming of spring when they return to their breeding grounds in the northern states, where they are general favorites. Figs. 2 and 60. The nest is usually built of mud and lined with grasses; placed in the fork of a tree or on some sheltered ledge. Robins take kindly to nesting shelves put up for them and it is well to put up several since but one brood is reared in each nest built. This old nest should be removed after the young birds have gone. A simple shelf is shown in the lower left hand corner of the photograph, Fig. 24, as well as in Figs. 20 and 49.
The chickadee is one of the brave little spirits who spends the entire winter with us, Fig. 3. We can be of considerable service to him during the cold weather by providing food shelters. During the summer months his home is usually found in some decaying stump, hence nesting boxes of the rustic type placed in some remote spot of the orchard or park are most attractive to him.
When all other song birds fail to take advantage of a house built for them, the wren may still be counted on. Almost any sort of home from a tin can or hollow gourd on up is satisfactory if put in a safe place and provided with an opening 1" or slightly less in diameter, so the sparrows must stay out, Figs. 4 and 5. Good homes are shown in Figs. 10, 14, 15, 16 and others.
The house finch has made many enemies because of its fondness for cultivated fruits and berries. However, it has some redeeming features in its song and beauty. The nest is usually placed in the fork of a limb—evergreens being favorite nesting places. The house shown in Fig. 51 is suitable for these birds but is also acceptable to wrens.
The favorite of this interesting family is the little downy, Fig. 7. Living largely upon harmful grubs and insects, this bird does an immense amount of good by protecting our forests from insect scourges. Woodpeckers do not build nests as most birds do, but excavate a deep cavity in some dead tree leaving a quantity of chips at the bottom on which the eggs are laid. Nesting boxes should be of the rustic type made as shown in Fig. 12, leaving some sawdust mixed with a little earth in the cavity. These houses should be placed on trees in a park or orchard. Boys should be able to tell the difference between the woodpeckers beneficial to man and the sapsucker whose misdeeds often cause considerable damage to fruit trees. A nuthatch is also seen in Fig. 7 enjoying a meal of sunflower seed.
The flickers spend much of their time on the ground in search of ants which form the larger percentage of their food. Since ants sometimes cause considerable trouble for other birds, a pair of flickers are worth cultivating for the sake of the work they can do. Artificial nesting boxes of sufficient depth and size are quite readily used, Figs. 6, 20 and 25.
Nearly everyone knows swallows of one variety or another. The most beautiful of the family are the martins, Fig. 8. This bird is of great service against the inroads of wasps, bugs and beetles. It prefers to live in colonies even though the males fight bitterly at times. Martin houses should have at least several rooms, each separate from all the others. Houses have been built to accommodate fifty and more families. Smaller ones are shown in Figs. 8, 9, 13 and 45.
Fig. 9 is a miniature reproduction of Peer Gynt's cottage for a martin house. This house was not only an attractive thing to make, but martins selected it for their home during the past summer.