Friday, April 29, 2011

New Digs for Portland's Nature: Urban Bird House

No, that post title doesn't mean this blog is moving, it means that there's some new real estate available for some lucky members of Portland's avian society.

I just put up a bird house!

It's my first attempt at supplying a home for that segment of Portland's population, and I'm hoping some happy little bird couple finds it before the wasps do.
Home Sweet Home

This great little house was constructed by my Dad, who it seems, has been on a bird house-making spree as of late. He had all sorts of models to offer me. Houses for hanging in trees, houses for attaching to buildings or posts... I chose the post-mountable option, because I have a distinct lack of trees large enough to support a hanging bird house. (Something I hope to correct with my native landscape plan, given a few years of tree growth.)
Ivy Fortress
 I put the house on top of a post, on an ivy-covered fence.  (I know, I know - ivy is a horrible plant.  I didn't plant it, and I keep it under strict control.)  I thought the ivy would provide some protection from cats and racoons, and make it seem a little more woodsy.

When I got the house home, I wanted to check online to see if I could find some information about proper hole sizes for Oregon's native species.   I found a lot more than I bargained for.

According to an experienced birder and Oregon bird house-builder, Dick Lamster, the 1 1/4 inch hole size of my bird house is perfect for keeping out non-native species like European Starlings and House Sparrows.  (I knew that Starlings were aggressive invasives, but House Sparrows?  They're so cute.)  Mr. Lamster wrote this article for the Lane County Audubon Society.  It's got some good information, but also some discouraging points.  His rule number one?

If you maintain birdhouses that are being used by European starlings or house sparrows (also called English sparrows), for the sake of our native birds, you must destroy the nest and eggs.
That's enough to make any urban bird real estate developer cringe, and his rule #2 doesn't make it any better...

In most cities, only starlings and house sparrows will nest in the birdhouses that people maintain.
As Charlie Brown would say... Good grief! What's a guy to do?

Well, as I mentioned before, the hole size on this house should keep the would-be blood off of my hands, but is the house doomed to being a bird-free wasp house?  Maybe I should have put up a Mason bee house instead?  Only time will tell.  For now, I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  Maybe I should put out a sign... "One Bedroom - CHEEP Rent!"

For some more guidance on bird house dimensions (hole size, floor depth, etc.), check this link to Wild Bird Watching.  And for more information about NW cavity nesters, check this post over at Northwest Nature Notes.

And let me know what your experience has been with urban bird houses.  Had any success?  Some Portland locations are better than others (I'm thinking about you, Slugyard), but I'm fairly close-in SE here.  So pretty urban.  I'll provide an update as soon as I notice signs of anyone moving in (bird, wasp, or otherwise).
Real Time Analytics