About my birdhouses…
Actually, it’s about my birdhouse collection. It wasn’t my intent to collect birdhouses. However, it has become a fun thing to do. This cute teapot is one of my newest birdhouses. I’ve several others that I will share in this article.
Who collects birdhouses?
That question started this entire article. I wasn’t able to find out who or how many people collect birdhouses. My extensive Google search uncovered wide-ranging material about which birds use birdhouses. In fact, my curiosity got the better of me. I’m eager to share the information.
Here is a bit of trivia… NestWatch.org is a nationwide monitoring program designed to track status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds. I thought that organization might have some idea how many people collected birdhouses.
Over more than a half-century, I have built basic birdhouses. Not one of them has ever been occupied. The basic birdhouse plan seemed solid:
I followed instructions. However, just following instructions never considered bird issues. For a bird to occupy a dwelling, there are four basic things it needs: Correct entrance, proper drainage, sufficient ventilation and correct placement.
I never considered proper drainage. In the detailed picture, there isn’t any drainage.
My cute teacup picture is purely for decoration. It not only lacks drainage but doesn’t provide for ventilation. It also lacks several other critical features I will discuss later.
My search for birdhouses surprised me. Although it is a huge hobby now, it didn’t exist until the 15th and 16th century.
In Turkey, birdhouses were built for sparrows and swallows. They were often built into the fascia of the building to compliment the architecture surrounding it. Here’s a picture:
Sparrows have an interesting history. They are considered one of the most common animals in the world. A comment from the Smithsonian magazine states “It is found throughout Northern Africa, Europe, the Americas and much of Asia and is almost certainly more abundant than humans. The birds follow us wherever we go. House sparrows have been seen feeding on the 80th floor of the Empire State Building. They have been spotted breeding nearly 2,000 feet underground in a mine in Yorkshire, England. “
A birdhouse origin has two types: European and American.
The clay style is found throughout Europe. Its original use was not to protect the bird but as a trap for eggs and chicks as food. Although wood, basket, or pottery was used in the beginning, such organic materials don’t last. The clay style eventually prevailed.
The American birdhouse originated from the Native Indians, who taught German immigrants. They were made from the bark of birch trees. It sheltered birds from storms and natural disasters and played an important breeding and propagation role.
Birdhouses have recently become a novelty item. They are made of all shapes, sizes, and colors and are made of all types of materials. It is one of the reasons birds never used my birdhouses.
Natural provides the best materials, like wood and plant material. Such material is porous enough to allow moisture and heat to escape during the summer. Metal and plastic can get too hot and harm the young birds.
I got too creative with paint and colors. Birds avoid bright and unnatural colors. Such colors are too obvious to predators. Every birdhouse I ever built had a perch. Birds don’t need them, and they only make it easy for predators or unwanted birds to get in.
Farmers know when to plant their crops. Using that logic, I waited until late spring to put up birdhouses. I was too late. Early nesting birds may investigate the area for additional broods later in the season.
My next-door neighbor, growing vegetables, found a dozen dove eggs concealed among the plants. Many birds never stay near a birdhouse and nest elsewhere instead.
I stuck one of my birdhouses high on a pole, totally unaware that birds build their nests lower than where I located my birdhouse. This is a good time to share my tiny birdhouse garden.
Notice that high blue/yellow birdhouse? It has been out in the hot Arizona sun for two years. No ventilation or drainage and much too high for any nesting bird.
Each birdhouse has my personal history. The blue/yellow color scheme was my elementary school colors (Thomas Edison, Gates NY) It is also my cub scout colors when I built my first birdhouse. Despite my advanced years, my birdhouse skills haven’t improved.
A properly built birdhouse has a ‘clean-out-door’ or some way to remove the bird material. Most nesting birds will not reuse old nests. Basic birdhouse plans usually don’t provide for a clean-out-door. Consequently, I never included one.
I never considered the blue/yellow paint to be toxic to birds. I also violated another paint rule. Exterior paint should be camouflaged to help protect the house from predators and other invaders. It also helps control the interior temperature of the birdhouse.
Before sharing some other important information about being successful in attracting birds to actually use the birdhouse, here is some personal history why I selected my garden birdhouses.
I love education. This old schoolhouse has been weathered for three years. I should have clear-coat protected it. This is an example of a non-function birdhouse. All my birdhouses are for display.
When I was a teenager, mom and dad bought one of these vintage campers. We lived in Gates, New York. They had a very small spot down near the NY/Pennsylvania border. There is a huge history of their early camping ventures. One day I will write about it. In this case, this camper became the start of my folk’s summer home.
It happened this way. The New York winters are full of freezing temperatures and snow. To protect this camper, Dad decided to build a garage to store it on their small piece of land. It never happened. Mom decided to sell the camper and have dad convert the storage garage into a cute summer cabin.
That’s going to be another story to write.
This the classic Airstream travel trailer. We bought our 1984 Airstream in 1984 and lived full time out of it for several years. We bought in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We were RICH at the time. At least our neighbors thought so. We lived in a run-down trailer park. I had retired from the Navy and wife, Cricket, was a Major nurse in the Air Force. We both loved RVing, and for several years we traveled, courtesy of military stateside tours. Why did the neighbors think we were rich?
In addition to a brand-new Airstream, I had a brand-new Honda Interstate motorcycle. And… because it was inconvenient to pick-up-and-go camping for a short four-day weekend… we also had a 24-foot diesel 1984 Holiday Rambler motorhome. We were either camping in the motorhome or tooling down the highway on the motorcycle.
I guess I will have to write some of my adventures during that period too.
This is a San Francisco cable car. The only reason for having it is to add color to the garden. Although I did visit San Francisco, I never rode in one. My business visit kept me inside one of the universities, doing educational survey work. I need to find a motorcycle and a motorhome birdhouse to round out my historical journey.
Actually, my birdhouse ‘scrapbook’ would need a lot more unusual display pieces. Maybe some more stories to write.
I’ve covered quite a bit of material regarding why birds don’t reside in my birdhouses. Before I share the remainder of my birdhouse collection, here is a very brief summary of factors to consider when attempting to persuade birds to become temporary guests of your birdhouse…
A lot of factors affect how big a home birds need, including adult size, brooding size, fledging size, and safety.
Safety… The size of the bird house directly impacts how safe the house is for both the parents and their chicks. It needs to be large enough for all residents with proper ventilation for air circulation and temperature control.
The entrance must be the correct size and the correct distance from the ground to keep predators out. A house too large may not retain enough heat, yet too much room will not help the chicks feel snug and secure.
I’ve taken the easy way out. Birds have successfully created just the correct size and placement to raise chicks for thousands of years. I limit my birdhouses to displays.
I build platforms for my birdhouses. I clear-coat and protect them from the sun. I place them in the carport and on the front porch.
This is a work in progress. I have at least another half-dozen to order.