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GardenSMART :: Nest Boxes

Nest Boxes

By Pennington Wild Bird Club
Photographs courtesy of Pennington Wild Bird Club

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.

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Downy Woodpecker

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.

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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


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GardenSMART Featured Article

By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers

Millions of Senetti plants are sold each year and the vast majority are Magenta Bicolor and Blue Bicolor with stunning vibrant tips and white centers. But new this year is the Senetti violet which has deep purple petals. For more information about the Senetti plants, click here for an informative article.

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