In winter, long before songbirds start nesting, they use nest boxes for nighttime roosting. And some winter birds will start looking over possible nest sites long before they actually start breeding. Early March can be the ideal time to get birdhouses out, before migrants return and while year-round residents are first searching out nest sites. Some wintering birds may even make use of birdhouses for nighttime roosting.
Bird feeding stores may sell birdhouses, and some local bird clubs sell houses built by volunteers for fundraising. You can also build your own: plans and tips for where to place them to attract different species are available from many state's natural resources departments. A great book with detailed instructions that may be available in your library is Carrol Henderson's Woodworking for Wildlife, published by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Not all users of bird boxes are birds (deer mouse)
Be very careful not to set out houses for screech owls and other predators near where you've set out houses for tinier birds. Also, it's wisest not to encourage or foster house sparrows in birdhouses. Many people treasure these little birds, but birds native to America are not equipped to compete with the more aggressive introduced house sparrow, and when we subsidize house sparrows with housing, we boost their numbers, with tragic results for bluebirds and other native species. European starlings are another introduced species that wreaks havoc on red-headed woodpeckers, bluebirds, etc. You can learn some tips for keeping those European species out of nest boxes on Nestwatch's website at http://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/managing-house-sparrows-and-european-starlings/
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By Joan Casanova, Bonnie Plants,
Photographs courtesy of Bonnie Plants, Inc.
Shorter days and cooler temperatures mean gardeners everywhere can flex their green thumb to squeeze every last moment out of the growing season. The experts at Bonnie Plants offer some fall gardening tips.
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