Birds that will nest
in man- made birdhouses are called cavity nesters. Alabama has approximately 20 species of
cavity nesting birds, and six of them are found in almost every neighborhood in Alabama.
If you build it, they will come.
Of course, Mother Nature provided
birdhouses long before man thought about becoming a birds landlord. Windstorms,
lightning, ice, and disease cause the woods to be filled with dead limbs and trees.
Natural holes often appear when a dead tree or limb rots, but sometimes Mother
Natures carpenters, the wood-peckers, go to work and carve out their own cavities.
Most of the sites used by other cavity nesters were first excavated by a woodpecker. If
woods are left undisturbed, there are usually plenty of nesting holes; however,
unfortunately, this is not the situation today. A fairly common type of forestry
management in Alabama known as clear-cutting does not leave any dead trees
standing. In cities and in suburbs, even dead limbs are pruned from trees. Many people do
not recognize any value in a dead tree so most of them are cut down.
Despite Mother Natures best efforts,
in most areas today, there is a shortage of natural cavities. For many years, wildlife
biologists, ornithologists, and bird watchers have been trying to help cavity nesters
overcome the shortage of nesting places by erecting birdhouses.
A bird that has benefited greatly from
mans efforts to supply nesting sites is the sweetheart of backyard birdwatchers, the
Eastern Bluebird. It prefers open areas like orchards, fields, and golf courses.
The inside dimensions of a bluebird house should be approximately 5 inches high by 5
inches wide by 8 inches deep, with an entrance hole 1½ inches in diameter, placed about 6
inches from the bottom of the house.
Both the Carolina Chickadee and the Tufted
Titmouse will use a house slightly smaller than a blue-bird house. To prevent the
house from being taken over by larger birds, the entrance hole should be only 1¼ inches
There is probably a Carolina Wren in
every yard in Alabama. The small brown bird will build a nest in almost anything. However,
if you want to put up a wren house, make the entry 1½ inches in diameter. Hang it in a
garden shed or under the eaves of your house, and a wren will probably move right in.
House Finches are very common in
Alabama. Both the male and female are streaked brown, but only the male has reddish
coloring on its head, breast, and back. These finches prefer building a nest in a fern on
the front porch but will use a birdhouse about the size of a bluebird house, if placed
close to your home.
Another common, but not as well known,
cavity nester in Alabama is the Great Crested Flycatcher. This cardinal sized bird
has a bright yellow breast. The Great Crested Flycatcher likes a house 6
inches high by 6 inches wide by 10 inches deep, with an entrance at least 2 inches in
diameter, placed about 7 inches from the bottom of the house.
It is important for all birdhouses to open
easily for cleaning. At the end of the season, remove old nests and clean up the house to
make it a healthy nesting spot for the next year.