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by Carole Schwalm Several birdhouses sitting on top of an outdoor electric post.

Birdhouses are cute and decorative, but they are really meant to provide a home. And not all birds need this type of nest. Bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, swallows and wrens, purple martins, and flickers are potential renters. Some birds prefer to do their own designing and building.

All birdhouses have entry holes, but not all are alike. A hole that is 1 1/8” across accommodates the smaller group like the chickadees. The bigger birds, like the bluebirds need a hole that is at least 1½” across. The nuthatch needs 1¼” and mountain bluebirds need 1-1/16” across. The larger birds like the flicker need 2¼ to 2½.” There are additional birds in various parts of the country, and you can find nesting information.

Picture of a bird pearched on the outside post of a birdhouse. The entrance to the birdhouse should face a more insulated spot to protect it from the weather. A key piece of information here (from Sunset Western Landscaping - 1997): handmade nests, for example from plastic milk bottles and milk cartons mean someone has a good intention, but it the material is too thin. The ventilation is nil, and most important of all, it can bake the baby chicks or the heat causes the eggs to hatch too soon.

Of course, don’t paint the inside of the birdhouse.

While decorative birdhouses can stay outside all year long, make sure your birdhouses are ready for occupancy around late February. This is when migrating birds return and … well you know spring is mating season!

Picture of hummingbird flying up to a hummingbird feeder Bird Feeders
Nourishing sustenance

Like providing water, if you feed it, it will come. There are many types of birdfeeders available. And don’t forget birds that are ground feeders. (They love sunflower seeds).

There are other feeding ideas as well, for example, trees that provide seeds and nests are: cherry, crabapple, dogwood, maples and mulberry. Birds like bluebirds and cardinals like shrubs, especially those close to the house.

Wildflowers like the black-eyed susan, purple coneflower and sunflower are favorites.

For a special treat, halve an orange, mix peanut butter with cornmeal, or spread some peanut butter on the bark of a tree.

A clean bird is a warm bird
The quote pretty much explains why you see little birds splashing around in a birdbath in the middle of winter. The bath acts as insulation: clean feathers are fluffy feathers, thus keeping the bird warm.

Picture of woodpecker on tree branch. A birdbath should be shallow, around 2”-3” deep. Make sure the water is clean. You’ll also attract more birds if the water is moving. Birds actually hear running water in flight. A heating element keeps water from freezing.

Be sure to locate the birdbath in a safe place. In other words, they need to be able to hide from predators.

Make a commitment to provide seed and water: The birds are counting on you.

You can join the Birdhouse Network (TBN) through the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Help them monitor bird population and nesting habits. Both the National Wildlife Federation and Humane Society have backyard habitat programs.

Share your bird hobby experience or if you'd like more information.