BIRD WATCH: Bird houses need to be repaired now

VALENTINE’S DAY WAS like a newspaper deadline date.

There might be a few chocolates left in the heart-shaped boxes and flower bouquets still look lovely, but the deadline has passed.

Bird houses, or nest boxes, need to be ready now.

It doesn’t take long once you begin looking over the yard’s available dwellings before you see what needs to be done.

There are also some problems to be dealt with.

How about the nest box squirrels decided to take over?

That’s a big one in my yard and I’ve looked at it hundreds of times since last fall.

One brood of baby squirrels were spared.

I’m not into dispatching these pests — yet.

Once the nursery was empty, the box was plugged with lots of rags.

It’s mounted on the front of the carport where I was positive it was safe from the squirrels.

It was originally intended for chickadees, nuthatches or violet-green swallows.

To say that it needs some modification is an understatement.

The squirrels enlarged the entrance, making it useless for small birds.

Even starlings could use it now.

Modifying the entrance isn’t the biggest challenge.

That just requires cutting a new hole in a smaller piece of wood and placing it over the enlarged hole.

I’m considering rimming the entrance with metal, something the squirrels can’t chew through.

This task goes to the world’s best handyman.

Gary will figure out something.

Deciding on where to place a bird house is a major decision.

When you choose the perfect spot, you know it right away.

There will be birds checking it out almost before it is in place.

The chickadees and nuthatches will probably start arguing over it.

House sparrows will also get into the confrontations, but if the entrance is the correct size, they eventually give up because they can’t get into the house.

Entrance openings in houses for these two smaller birds should be no wider than one and one-eighth inches.

If you have a favorite house with a larger opening, try the small block trick.

Just cut an opening to the correct size and fasten it over the old one.

Where starlings and house sparrows aren’t a problem, chickadees and nuthatches readily use houses with the old one and one-quarter opening.

Later in the season, these might also be used by violet-green or tree swallows.

They move in after the smaller birds launch their broods.

Woodpeckers will nest in manmade bird houses.

Flickers have become notorious for the way they hammer on our houses, but they also attack the bird houses.

There is one persistent male that has been doing this for at least three years.

I suspect it is the same bird this spring.

Once he begins his loud tapping on the two boxes on the front of the house, Penny dog goes into action.

Neither of us know whether it is a neighbor working on his house or someone knocking on the door.

The two houses were originally installed for the violet-green swallows that like the second story placement.

However, the chickadees usually get the dwellings first.

I don’t want them remodeled by a flicker.

There are products that state they are bird repellants.

That’s fine if it is your house they are threatening, but those same repellants would drive away other birds if they work.

Other than hammering on the windows for several weeks, I’m stymied by the flickers.

They eventually give up but then I can only hope the other birds will decide to move in.

Most of us who enjoy the birds in our yards have faced some or all of these bird house challenges.

I’d like to hear how you have solved one or all of them.

Others now facing some of these problems would like to know your methods.

________

Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email: joanpcarson@comcast.net.

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