NestboxesNestbox Material

Nestbox Material

Information from Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant, Texas

Western Red Cedar: Soft light weight wood, easy to cut with saws but tends to produce a lot of fine dust in the air. Wear a respirator while cutting this wood. Easy to nail into edge grain for nestboxes. Use “hot” dipped galvanized “box” nails for better holding in this soft wood or use galvanized screws. This wood tends to stain when regular steel nails are used. (“box” is a thinner shanked nail, “common” nails have thicker shanks and split the wood for nestboxes more often)

You need a sharp drill bit for entrance holes or the hole edges will “tear out” leaving rough edges. It tends to make a LOT of thin sharp splinters. In areas of the country where the wood is likely to go from wet to dry several times a month the swelling and shrinking of the wood tends to have roof boards split if they are made of cedar. Nestbox fronts made of Western Cedar is most likely to be chewed by rodents or the holes enlarged by woodpeckers than harder species of woods. Roof boards should be sealed every couple of years to extend life.

Western Red Cedar trees normally live for 1,000>2,000 years. At the turn of the last century equipment manufacturers specified western cedar or Douglas Fir for wood for grain combines that had in excess of 70 “grains or rings” per inch or trees that took 35 years or more to grow a single inch in diameter. It was not uncommon for Western Cedar trees to reach a diameter in excess of 20 feet in the USA. Today most of this wood is coming out of Canada or from Russia.

Redwood: A soft wood that resists termites, wood boring beetles and fungi better than cedar. Also easy to cut but a respiratorshould be worn when dust is produced. Easy to nail but tends to split more often than cedar. Easier to drill clean holes in Redwood than in cedar. Once again “hot” dipped galvanized nails or screws should be used. redwood is far more resistant to weather so it splits less often when used for nestbox roofs.

Redwood trees are native to a small section of the West Coastof America.
There are now more large Redwood trees growing in Europe than thereare in America. Plantation grown Redwood is NOT resistant to rotor insects. Old growth Redwood often took more than 70 years togrow a single inch in diameter. It took a three man crew 27 daysto cut down, cut up and load up a single redwood tree right afterWorld War II. There were commonly more than 300,000 board feetin a single tree or enough to build 100,000 bluebird nestboxes.These trees commonly grew to 250 feet tall with some far taller.
It was common to hold a “dance” on the stump of a redwoodtree after it was “cut down” 20 pairs of “ballroom” dancerscould dance at one time comfortably on a typical redwood stump.

Sitka Spruce: The largest tree of this species in the USA is over27 feet in diameter with one in Canada over 35 feet in diameter. Spruce is normally cut into “white wood” #2 framing lumber for construction in people houses. Spruce tends to have lots of small knots and easily splits, does not weather well and would not be suitable for long lived nestboxes.

White Pine: Is another good soft wood. Tight grained white pine often lasts longer without splitting than cedar in the southeastern USA. Hot dipped galvanized nails, Cement Coated nails (some times called CC Coolers) or any type of screws work well with this wood. Native to wide areas of the USA and readily available above planting zone 6. Wear a respirator when creating dust. Entrance holes drill very easily but like all softwoods rodents and woodpeckers will enlarge the entrance holes. Trees typically live to 300>500years. It is commonly planted in plantations today and fast growth white pine is softer and less resistant to weather and rot than “slow old” growth trees. Today it takes about 70 years to grow a “quality” fast growth white pine saw log. In premium “D” grade, slow growth, it is quite expensive but in culled #3 grade fast growth you can cut around the large 3″ pine knots and still makegood nestboxes very cheaply. This wood should be sealed or painte d after 2 or 3 years to make the boxes last longer.

Yellow pine: There are actually about a dozen species of pines sold as “yellow” pine. Typically it is a very hard wood when dried to 8% moisture content. It tends to split easily if it is old or slow growth with tight growth rings. It can be verys oft with fast growth lumber. It also could live to 150 years and reach 6>12 feet in diameter in some species.

Typically today most yellow pine is “super fast” growth loblolly selections grown on plantations. They expect or hope to get a pulp log in 15 years that is forty feet long with a 4″ diameter top or more if planted on good fertile soils. They cut every other row (half the trees normally planted 600>900 per acre ((they want 600 trees per acre to survive) at 15 years. At 20 or 25 years they take out every other tree again for wafer board or for paper pulp and normally a few “no grade” utility 2X4’s. At40 years they hope to clear cut for saw logs and replant. Superfast growth yellow pine trees do NOT make quality construction lumber at any age!

Last year USA was cutting more board feet of trees than were growing.We have more “acres” of trees but far less “boardfeet” of timber. We had to import a record amount of lumberfor the record amount of residential and commercial construction.Wood pulp to feed our printers and produce cardboard was also importedin record amounts. The USA consumed 42% more lumber and paper thanwe could grow last year.

Forest fires in Alaska burned more than 7 million acres of timber,mostly jack pine and spruce in 2004. It takes more than 125 yearsto grow the same size “Yellow Pine” in Alaska as it doesto grow a 15 year old “yellow pine”
in Mississippi. Nobody replants trees in Alaska.

ANYWAY think about recycling the millions of board feet of privacyfences torn down and buried every year or ask at building sites for usable lumber that will go to landfills or mulch machines. Almost any board will make a nestbox for bluebirds.

Thanks to Keith Kridler for the above information.

Plastic: More and more boxes are now made of plastic – in some cases, recycled plastic.  They last forever.  The problem is that cavity nesters seem to avoid them – I rarely have any birds nesting in them, with the except of Tree Swallows on occasion.  Maybe if they had no other choices they might get more use, but birds seem to prefer boxes made of wood.


Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.”
― Leo Tolstoy, A Confession


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