'Tis the season for nesting. And if you love birds, it's a great idea to help them out by providing a nest box, which offers a protected, dry home for cavity-nesters. With deforestation on the rise, lots of birds are losing their natural homes -- trees -- and we should give them a hand.
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend my day off with VINS volunteer and master carpenter, Peter Mitchell, who showed me how to build a nest box for small cavity-nesters such as chickadees and house wrens. Nest boxes range in size, and can be made large enough to house wood ducks or great gray owls.
Peter is an expert craftsman: building a nest box was easy for him. And surprisingly enough, it was easy for me, too. Whether you have your own wood shop like Peter or just a simple set of tools, making a nest box for your own yard is a great project.
Photos: Above right, the two nest boxes Peter and I made; above left, Peter using a table saw; bottom left, Peter's extensive and well-organized tool collection.
I recommend the book, Woodworking for Wildlife: Homes for Birds & Mammals, created by the Missouri Department of Conservation. It has easy-to-follow plans, and a great introduction on why nest boxes are beneficial to birds' lives and our own. The book also contains essential tips, such as making the entrance to some boxes small enough that a chickadee can get in, but a house sparrow cannot (house sparrows are non-native birds who take over other birds' nests and often kill their babies).
Peter and I created two nest-boxes together in just a few hours. Both boxes would be up-to-code per any bird's standards: they've got ventilation holes toward the top, drainage holes on the bottom for soggy days (note: drainage is so important for nest boxes! Don't drown the babies!), and no perch by the entrance hole (where predators themselves can perch and reach in for a baby snack!).
So if you have a few hours to spend and a heart for birds, why not build a home for the birds? You will undoubtedly feel satisfaction at having created a home for a feathered friend yourself, plus you'll experience the enjoyment of watching baby birds grow up and fledge before your very eyes.