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Nest Boxes Provide Nesting Habitat for Several Bird Species

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Winter is the time to inspect, clean and repair existing nest boxes and erect new boxes for cavity-nesting birds. Nesting activity for some cavity-nesting species can begin during late January through March, but peaks for most species during April through June. Locally, few species continue nesting after mid August.

Several native bird species nest in cavities, but depend on other organisms such as fungi and woodpeckers to create the cavities. Examples of some bird species that use such cavities include eastern bluebird, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, Bewick's wren, prothonotary warbler, purple martin, great crested flycatcher and wood duck. Man-made nest boxes can provide important cavities for many of these species, because natural cavities in snags (dead trees) and large live trees are sometimes in short supply due to relatively few snags and old trees remaining in the region.

The Noble Research Institute has developed a fact sheet about eastern bluebird nest boxes. To obtain a copy, contact the Helpline at (580) 224-6500 or email Ag Helpline. It is also available electronically at www.noble.org/Ag/Wildlife/EBluebirdNestBoxes.

Information about wood duck nest boxes, purple martin nesting structures and predator guards for nest boxes has been addressed in previous Ag News and Views articles that are available at the following URLs:
www.noble.org/Ag/Wildlife/DuckNestBoxes; www.noble.org/Ag/Wildlife/EarlyBird; and www.noble.org/Ag/Wildlife/PredatorGuards.

We have managed nest boxes designed for eastern bluebird, wood duck and purple martin for several years on some of the Noble Research Institute properties. Table 1 describes use of nest boxes designed for eastern bluebird at the Noble Research Institute Pasture Demonstration and Headquarters Farms.

Depending upon the project, we generally monitor nest boxes with one of two approaches:

  1. Monitor nest boxes once a year during winter while cleaning and repairing the boxes. When boxes are well used, this results in about one nesting attempt per box annually, which mimics the natural scheme of things.
  2. Monitor nest boxes weekly during the nesting season and remove nests after nestlings fledge or after a nest is otherwise abandoned. When boxes are well used, this approach can result in as many as two to three nesting attempts per box annually. Weekly monitoring allows determination of nesting success and depredation problems and provides an enjoyable activity for people who like watching birds.

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