March 24th, 2015

By Jon Wogen, TBC Board member – printed with permission by the Renville County Register

Hi, Friends, it is time to remind you about your birds and their needs once again. It is soon time to get your new bird houses (nest boxes) out into the habitat the birds prefer. This is the time of year when many of us get the itch to build nest boxes for bluebirds, wood ducks, and wrens, or other birds. This year you might add a Kestrel or Screech Owl box to your collection. The sun is warmer now and makes it possible to actually work outdoors at times if you prefer to do so. Others will have a basement or small shop to work in.

Many of us who have bird houses out in the habitats have already brought them in for cleaning and rehab. Cleaning out the old nests and bird doo doo helps to keep birds healthy. A light spray of Lysol or mild insecticide in the bottom of the nest box is done by some of us to kill germs and parasitic mites and things. If one does this, a handful of wood chips in the bottom of the nest box will separate the chemical from the birds as they explore your nest box.

Some of the old houses out there have been weathered and some boards may be rotten. The roofs and floors are the most commonly deteriorated. Sometimes the front has had the hole enlarged by squirrels and a replacement front is in order. It can be added directly over the old front board. Do the same with an old roof. Before putting on new boards where needed, give the old ones a coat of water sealer. This will enhance the longevity of the boards a lot more. The smell of the water seal will be pretty much gone by the time the birds need them.

Remember that male bluebirds will arrive before the end of March, date determined by the weather as spring comes. They will find your house and may stake it out as theirs. They have to defend it from starlings and sparrows and often lose the battle. But don’t despair. Clean out the nests of the sparrows or starlings and beat them at their game of stealing your house for themselves. The bluebirds will often nest a second try later in the summer and will then take over the house.

By the first of April, have all of your bird houses out in the habitat you choose. The tree swallows arrive early in April so they will use the bluebird houses quite often. They are “good birds” and will be nice to have around as they eat flying insects like crazy.

Wrens are wonderful to have in your garden. They love to eat small parasitic worms that crawl on your garden plants. They eat all kinds of small insects as they go about caring for their young in a nest box there. Avoid having wrens near bluebird houses. Wrens sometimes peck holes in the eggs of other birds. Yes, wrens.

With all the cold fronts passing through and freezing drizzle and snow around, it may seem hard to believe that spring is on our doorstep. But, it is true. Get ready. Male Bluebirds and Robins are really early arrivals. The hens are smarter and wait until there is more food and warmth.

Any of you who have a place to work at building nest boxes should really get started. Time flies when you are having fun. Building for the birds is really fun to do. You may know someone who might appreciate a bird house in their garden or yard. If the person is in town, a wren house is usually the most readily used next box. A bluebird house may only attract sparrows and the person you give it to might have to constantly empty out the sparrow nest. But, that is not hard to do. Maybe they will get lucky and have a bluebird or tree swallow use the house. This would be a nice “spring gift”.

Plans for a birdhouse can be found in the DNR book, “Woodworking for Wildlife”. Your local library should have a copy of this book. You can also buy one for yourself at some DNR offices, like in State Parks. You can go on-line and find lots of nest box plans also.

Spring signs are starting to show right now if you get out and look. The sun is higher in the sky now and has more power. Spring will win out over winter.


Sven quotes from the Bible today: “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.” (Luke 11:21)

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