The other day I was at a friend’s house whom I had given a bird house for Christmas. I noticed the house but it did not look familiar. My friend had made two common mistakes with the house that reminded me to write a post about predator free bird houses. The two mistakes he made were to make the hole size bigger and he installed a perch under the enlarged hole. Hole size matters for small birds as they can fit in the house but larger predatory birds including blue jays, starlings and magpies cannot get their heads in to eat the eggs or chicks. Even with the proper sized hole, giving the predators a perch allows them to use their ingenuity to figure out how to get the chicks when they pop their heads up thinking mom is bringing food. As you can see in the pictures above, I never install perches on the bird houses I build. The birds enter the houses easily without the need for a step stool.
I had forgotten about writing this post until this morning when I was reminded by a persistent blue jay who attempted to get into several of the bird houses in my yard by either trying to cling to the hole and leaning over from the roof. Neither option was successful and the chicks remained safe.
It sometimes takes several years for backyard birds to start using bird houses but once they get started the next generations readily move in to newly placed bird houses. I have 12-15 houses in my backyard and when I mess up on my building I will add the defective bird house to my yard and it takes from a few hours to a couple of days for someone to move in.
Backyard birds are a fun addition to your landscape. The only downfall to having a lot of birds is they tend to eat tender pea shoots and a few raspberries, strawberries and grapes. I grow enough that I can afford to share some of the season bounty and I provide them with bird baths and I feed them black oil sunflower seeds to get them through the tough winter months. They also like to partake of the chicken scratch.
So protect your backyard birds by selecting or building houses with the correct hole size for the desired species and cut off those perches. A simple google search will result in your finding charts regarding the appropriate hole size dimensions for your bird houses. If you don’t protect them you will not keep a healthy colony in your yard.