The HubPages Birdwatcher's Club: Birdbaths, Birdhouses, and Roosting Boxes
Our feathered friends need water all throughout the year, just like you and me, not only in the summer. They likely need it even more in the winter, when all the water is frozen. A birdbath can provide this necessity, which is every bit as important as the food that you give them. Birdbaths come in every price range, and there is something out there for everyone. The most important thing is, that it should be shallow, and if it is flat, no more than one inch deep. If there is a slope or a grade, it should be very gentle and no more than three inches at the deepest point. It should also have grooves, ridges, or a rock in it, to keep the birds from slipping. They also have no depth perception when it comes to water, and if you place that rock in there, it will help immensely. The pedestal bath is the most traditional, as well as the safest. It is off the ground, and the birds are in less danger from predators. Surprisingly, birds prefer something at ground level, and you can use a number of things for this, like a pie plate or a terra cotta underliner for a plant pot. It just needs to be shallow. It can be placed in or near a flowerbed, a garden, or on the patio.
On the top of the agenda is to keep the birdbath water from freezing when it is cold. There are some baths that have a built in heater, or you can add an electric or solar powered heating element to the one that you already have. Just don’t add antifreeze to the water.
Birds love the sound of running water and will stop just to investigate whenever they hear the sound of water. If you add a drip spout or a bubbler to your entourage, you’ll have as many birds at the bath as at the feeders. There are several of them that you can add to the outdoor faucet.
The only birds that will use a house are those that are cavity nesters. You will have Purple Martins, wrens, chickadees, bluebirds, and starlings. If you are lucky, you might get woodpeckers, nuthatches, or titmice. I won’t list them all, as I’d like to see you come up with surprises that you can tell me about later. To make this attraction, you’ll need the right kind of house, as well as the correctly sized entry.
Birds like wooden houses, and they provide ventilation and warmth. Earth tones are the best colors, and don’t paint them with lead based paint that you might have in the back corner of the garage. Never paint the inside, and be sure that you have drainage holes in the bottom and ventilation holes in the sides under the roof. Have the roof extend three inches past the entryway, which will avoid moisture within.
If the house was occupied the year before, do a spring cleaning and remove the old nest and nesting material. These old nests will attract rodents for their own purposes, so do clean the house at the end of the season with a mild bleach solution to deter parasites. If the house opens from the side or has a hinged roof for this purpose, all the better.
Birdhouses for Birds of Your Choice
If you’d like to try to have bluebirds, have a 1 ½ inch entry with an interior of 5 x 5 x 8 and well-vented. It will also need to be made so that you can evict others(if you wish to do so, and it could be often). Your best attraction for bluebirds would be to have a number of boxes about 100 feet apart, mounted on a fence post about four to six feet high. The best places are along pastures and edges of open fields.
For chickadees and wrens, you’ll need a 1 1/8 inch entry with an interior of 6 x 6 x 8 inches. Make sure that there is no perch, and have it between six and ten feet above the ground to deter raccoons, cats, and other pests. Place fresh wood shavings in the house, and you’ll have some prime real estate.
Downy Woodpeckers and nuthatches will like a 6 x 6 x 12 inch house on a tree between six and twenty feet from the ground. They live somewhere year round and also roost in the winter.
Roosting? That’s where your birds go on an inclement night, a roost box, a shelter. It is best to put these in a protected area on a tree or a fencepost. You’ll need staggered perches inside, an entry with a perch with a 1 ½ inch hole. The entry will need to be at the bottom of the box, which keeps the heat inside. Now you know the differences between a birdhouse and a roost box.