NestboxesPicture of the Week: My personal nightmare

Picture of the Week: My personal nightmare

Nestbox City. Photo by Bet Zimmerman.
Nestbox City. Photo by Bet Zimmerman.

These houses popped up next to an experimental bluebird trail where I was struggling to control House Sparrows (HOSP) without trapping. I was wondering where all the HOSP gone. Then my husband pointed these out to me.

The problems with this set up: The boxes are lovely, but….

  • Eastern Bluebird nestboxes should be mounted a minimum of 100 yards apart. 125-150 yards apart may be better. Tree swallow boxes that are paired with bluebird boxes can be about 20 feet from the other half of the pair. Obviously these boxes are clustered, which will appeal to House Sparrows (who will nest within inches of each other.)
  • Some have two stories, which again will invite HOSP proliferation.
  • They are also near brambles, which may invite House Wrens.
  • ALL of these lack a door that opens, so monitoring and cleaning would be almost impossible.
  • In addition, most are mounted so high that they are not accessible for monitoring.
  • Some have perches, which helps HOSP defend a box, and also makes it easier for avian predators to hang on while reaching inside to nab box contents.
  • Some have very large holes (greater than 1.5″), which will allow aggressive starlings to enter. A 1 1/8″ hole restrictor would prevent usage by House Sparrows, but would allow smaller birds (like chickadees and House Wrens) to use the boxes.
  • Many are shallow, which also makes it easier for avian predators to reach inside.
  • Some are painted dark colors and placed in full sun, which could mean contents (eggs and nestlings) heat up to the point of death.
  • If egg/nestling eating snakes were in the area (they are not common in NE Connecticut), the lack of a wobbling stove pipe baffle could make predation easy. On the other hand, the skinny mounts (rebar) make predation by raccoons or cats unlikely in the higher boxes.

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Previous Pictures of the Week: © Original photographs are copyrighted, and may not be used without the permission of the photographer. Please honor their copyright protection. If you would like to use a photo for educational purposes, you can contact me.

You cannot begin to preserve any species of animal unless you preserve the habitat in which it dwells. Disturb or destroy that habitat and you will exterminate the species as surely as if you had shot it. So conservation means that you have to preserve forest and grassland, river and lake, even the sea itself. This is vital not only for the preservation of animal life generally, but for the future existence of man himself—a point that seems to escape many people.
-Gerald Durrell, The Nature Conservancy


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