Every Thursday, the Working for the Weekend segment highlights a project or job for Southeastern gardeners to tackle in the weekend ahead. Know of a project you’d like to see featured here, or a garden chore you’d like some help with? Make your suggestions in the comments section below.
Working for the Weekend:
Prepare Your Yard for Nesting Season
March has come in (like a lion in some places and like a lamb in others) and spring is nearly here. Birds are ready to begin nesting, if they haven’t already, so spend some time this weekend preparing your yard to welcome them.
According to Georgeann Schmalz of Birding Adventures, Inc., there are seven species of birds that commonly use nesting boxes in the Southeast: Carolina Wrens, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, Brown-headed and White-breasted Nuthatches, Eastern Bluebirds, House Finches, and House Wrens.
Nesting boxes should be cleaned after each nesting season. If you didn’t clean yours last fall, verify that no birds have begun using them yet by watching closely for a few days. Then, follow the steps below:
- Open the box. Avoid inhaling dust and detritus from the box as you do so.
- If an old nest remains in the box, remove it carefully and place it in a plastic bag. Turn the bag inside out, use it like a “glove” to grasp the nest, and pull the bag over the nest – this way you don’t need to touch the nest with your hands.
- Use a paint scraper to remove any waste materials or wasp nests from the inside of the box.
- Use a stiff wire brush to scrape any remaining residue out of the box.
- Sanitize the box by making a 1:10 bleach solution. Using a spray bottle, spray the inside of the box thoroughly, and leave it open for at least 24 hours to dry. Don’t worry about using bleach – in a solution this weak, it quickly oxidizes and becomes harmless by the time the box is dry.
- When the box is dry, close it and prepare to welcome the birds!
Don’t have a nesting box yet? There’s a lot to know about picking a bird house that birds will actually use. Use the resources below to choose a box that’s right for you.
- Click here to learn about nesting box basics from Gardeners.com, including locations, materials, box sizes, and hole sizes and positions.
- If you’re ready to buy, try Duncraft.com for a great selection of nesting boxes designed for specific kinds of birds.
- Feeling handy? Birds & Blooms has a variety of DIY nesting box options on their website. Click the images throughout this post to try a few of my personal favorites, or click here for a complete list of projects.
If you don’t have space or desire for nesting boxes, you can still welcome nesting birds to your yard by providing the materials they need to build nests. Duncraft has a whole category of nesting materials for purchase, but you’ll find that you already have plenty of these materials around the house and yard already. Popular nesting materials include are listed below. Visit AllAboutBirds.org for a complete list and instructions on how to offer these materials.
- Dead twigs and leaves, dry grass
- Yarn or string cut into 4- to 8-inch pieces
- Human or animal hair (no longer than 4-6 inches long)
- Sheep’s wool and feathers
- Plant fluff or down (e.g. cattail fluff, cottonwood down)
- Moss, bark strips, and pine needles
What other tips do you have for welcoming nesting birds to your southeastern yard? Do you have any nest-building activity in your yard yet? Tell us all about it in the comments!