Winter is coming to an end, which means the return of migratory birds is not far away. As thousands of birds make their way back to Wisconsin they have one thing in mind–successfully raising their young. Their unique preferences for food, shelter, and nesting sites determine where they spend their summer raising their family.
A wide range of birds seek out cavities for nesting such as bluebirds, warblers, wood ducks, and owls. Unfortunately, finding natural or vacant cavities is becoming more difficult. Not only does the “early bird get the worm,” they also get the best breeding and nesting sites. Migratory birds compete with year-round residents like the chickadee; as well as, the ever-changing landscape. Dead trees are ideal cavity nesting sites but are often removed during winter timber harvests or firewood collection. Building and installing nesting boxes benefit birds that raise their young in cavities (hollows or holes in trees). More and more, migratory (and resident) birds rely on artificial structures like nesting boxes to successfully breed.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to nest boxes. Each bird species require different habitat and nesting requirements. The Right Bird, Right House interactive tool from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology generates a list of birds most suitable for your land’s habitat types. Not only can you download nest box construction plans, the website offers a glimpse into the species’ preferred accommodations and neighborhood. The Barred owl, for example, the nest box should be placed 12 to 15 feet off the ground in a live tree with no branches obscuring the nest box entry hole. Ideally, the box is within 200 feet of water and at least ½ mile from their nearest owl neighbor.
Building and tending to nest boxes is a simple way to learn about and encourage wildlife on your land. You might consider another tool in the toolbox to welcome birds to your neighborhood.