My friendly neighbour: the nuthatchThis blog is for the birds, because it’s getting to be that time of year again - the time when many of our native bird species start to look for a suitable place to nest! Chickadees, nuthatches and other birds will start to look for a nice place to build a family around mid February to early March.
If there are mature trees in your neighbourhood, especially coniferous trees, you will have a lot of birds. If you don’t live around a lot of mature trees, you can help to create extra nesting habitat for native species by putting up nest boxes.
Many birds prefer to nest in old woodpecker holes. Woodpeckers tend to be drawn to mature and dying trees, which are often removed from city properties. So if you do have an old tree, or ‘snag”, and it is not a hazard, you may want to keep it for the birds it will attract. Certain nest boxes – ones that are ‘roughed’ up and more natural looking – can also attract chickadees, nuthatches, and a range of species including northern flickers (the picture is a nuthatch who nested in our yard last year).
For chickadees and nuthatches, use a nest box made out of untreated cedar. The entrance hole should be between 1 to 1/8 of an inch in order to protect the birds from house sparrows (an introduced species that often attacks smaller birds to steal their nesting sites). Cedar should not be stained, but it is rather soft, so if you are putting up a nest box for a flicker, a box made out of plywood (paint it with a low VOC stain, only on the outside) would work better for bird that tends to “drum” on the wood. Line an inch of the inside of the nest box with dried moss and untreated wood chips so the birds can ‘excavate’ their new home the way they would in a tree.
Painted beauty - a friendly resident northern flicker
The library has a number of books on how to make nest boxes and how to make your yard more attractive to native birds (including Bird-by-bird gardening: the ultimate guide to bringing in your favorite birds--year after year by Sally Roth.)