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A Birdhouse in Every Garden - Home Sweet Home
By Charles Kennedy

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 bird’s 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 Nature’s 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 Nature’s 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 man’s 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 1 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 1 inches in diameter.

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 1 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.

If you need detailed construction plans for birdhouses visit...
Birdhouse Plans at Cornell Lab of Ornithology

If "doing it yourself" is not your style have a look at our birdhouse selection.
Alabama WildBird Conservation Association Nature Shop

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