Charming birdhouses add so much character to a home’s outdoor landscape. I noticed this firsthand early June while touring the Heart of the Home Kitchen Tour and the Pence Gallery
Garden Tour. The homeowners created focal points in their yards using their birdhouse designs. Birdhouses serve as garden art and lodging. Creating shelter for our feathered visitors supports the songbird population so that they may thrive and reproduce. Even a novice bird-watcher like me can appreciate a bird’s place in nature – its plumage and flight fascinate. My favorites are the hummingbirds and bluebirds. At this moment, however, switching gears from the hustle and bustle of my children’s school and sport schedule to quiet and still birding (yes, it’s a verb) seems like a stretch. Yet I do value the concept of birding and know it would be beneficial to encourage more birds to take up residence in my family’s yard. I have to admit my recent interest was driven by the creative birdhouse designs from these home tours, and the slower pace of summer seems like the perfect opportunity to spend more time enhancing the yard. Maybe you feel the same way too?
Before you get started building or purchasing birdhouses take into consideration their placement and maintenance. Do a little online research to figure out what would work best in your backyard. Finches, hummingbirds, wrens, swallows and blackbirds are just a few of the species known to nest in our area. Decide what kind of style you want to create for your birds. Make sure the birdhouse has a hinged roof, hinged wall or slide-out bottom for easy cleaning. Parasites and insects can occupy the interior nest and cause harm to the birds. According to the experts, birdhouses should be 5 to 30 feet above ground. Mount birdhouses with the entrance hole facing slightly downward and positioned for afternoon shade. Also, try to place the birdhouse where it will be difficult for predators to invade. To attract birds faster to your yard, provide food and water near the birdhouse, but don’t be surprised if you have to wait a season or two before any residents move in.
Birdhouse designs offer a way for residents to express personality in their garden. Found objects can be used to enhance basic birdhouses, or thematic birdhouses can be created as with the example pictured here with aged iron pieces. There are quirky styles and traditional styles, metal materials or classic cedar and beadboard structures, church reproductions and log cabins – you are limited only by your imagination, really.
Davis Ace Hardware, Beyond the Garden Gate, Target and World Market are a few local options to help you get started with your birdhouse project. Also, there are a myriad of birdhouse kits available online. This is definitely an activity kids can get involved with too! Talk about your summer kids’ crafts projects – remember the one with the empty half-gallon milk carton? Make sure that the milk carton is washed thoroughly and dried before you start constructing it. First close the milk carton and staple it shut. Then wrap the entire milk carton with 2″ masking tape so that none of the original carton shows. Color it with markers and/or decorate it however the kids want. Make a hole in the side of the carton so the birdhouse has a doorway. Poke several holes in the bottom of the carton with a sharp pen to make holes so that water can drain out when it rains. Pierce another hole in the top of the milk carton through which string or wire can be threaded to hang it from a tree. Voila, summer craft for the kiddos!
Check out these websites to learn more about birdhouses and birding in our area: Birdhouses 101, Birds and Bird Watching – Davis Wiki , National Audubon Society. And, if you’re interested in expanding your knowledge beyond the backyard songbird, don’t forget the incredible resource at UC Davis, the California Raptor Center.
When you get a chance email me a picture of your birdhouse and I’ll post it in a future blog entry!
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