Where do you live

Do you live in the vicinity of meadow land, forests or a lake? The area in which you live will determine which birds you can attract to your nest boxes. Near a lake or the sea, wild ducks may come to the boxes while if near a wood, owls may come to breed. In the vicinity of enclosed pasture with groves of deciduous trees, the beautiful blue stock dove or jackdaws may use your owl nest boxes.

In Scandinavia if you are plagued with ants in your garden you should entice a wryneck, which is a species of woodpecker, to use your nest box. The wryneck is extremely fond of ant eggs and has a special knack for finding them.

Are you afraid that the birds may cat up your cherries or other fruit? Starlings eat few cherries. The young starlings will have already left the nest before midsummer, at which time they will accompany their parents for a while. The starlings from your nest boxes will not eat many of your berries, but wandering starlings will. Thrushes are the main consumers of berries but since they arc attractive birds and such fine songsters in the breeding season this is well worth tolerating. Neither flycatchers nor tits cat berries, feasting instead on the harmful insects on berry bushes and fruit trees, thus giving you healthier fruit and berries.

It is often thought, that to be successful, nest boxes must be set up in large wooded areas. Yet these boxes can be set up effectively in a garden area of only 500-1000 sq-in. An area of 500 sq-m will accommodate a nest box in each corner plus one in the centre, while an area of 1000 sq-m will additionally house one nest box on each side, giving a total of 9 nests. Nest boxes for tits and llycateners must be properly spaced as these birds behave territorially in the immediate vicinity of their homes. However, in Scandinavia one needs to take into consideration the fact that tits often have a second brood, for which they almost always set up home in a new nest site, so a selection of reserve nest boxes should be placed nearby. In Britain where the nesting season is almost completely synchronised with the appearance of caterpillars which feed on oak trees most tits arc single brooded so this problem docs not exist. Starling nest boxes can be placed closer together but not, in my experience, in the same tree.

One can also set up nest boxes in the small gardens of terraced houses. For several years now F have had tits breeding in a nest box set up on ihc end of a wooden fence separating gardens.

In gardens nest boxes should be separated by 10 15 m, in deciduous woods by 25 m, and in coniferous forests by 40-50 m.

Remember also that in Scandinavia and other Northern European countries birds fare best in nest boxes with south or east facing entrances. Further south such as in France or Britain southern aspects should be avoided because of the danger of over-heating in direct sun.

If despite all your efforts you get no birds in your nests, it will be for one of three reasons:

1. The nest box is situated in a place where there is too much disturbance. (If food is made available in the vicinity during the winter, tits will often stay overnight, and then when spring comes, will breed in the nest box. By this time they will have become accustomed to the nearby presence of humans. As long as normalcareisiak.cn the breeding will be very successful, even in small terraced gardens).

2. A shortage of water.

3. A shortage of food, because the nest area has insufficient bushes, trees, etc. The solution to problems 2 and 3 may be found on pages 188 and 187 which deal respectively with bird baths and supportive planting.

Owls also need nest boxes

Most people think only in terms of small birds when they set up nest boxes. Certainly, small birds have accommodation problems, but by far the greatest problems arc experienced by owls, whose very existence is threatened. Their natural ecological niches are disappearing more and more, their environment is being poisoned by the use of chemicals in the countryside and the old decayed trees in which they breed are becoming increasingly scarce as hedgerows have been removed and deciduous woodlands cleared. People should therefore set up large owl nest boxes on a much greater scale than at present. It is easy enough for organisations and large land owners, but individuals can also make signilicant contributions if enough people put up the odd box on trees in their gardens.

In their 1977 wetlands campaign, the Swedish Hunting Association discovered that the nest situation was bad for goldcneyes and mergansers, but worse still for owls. In response to this the Association set up a concerted campaign to put up 10,000 large nest boxes suitable for all of these large hole nesting species. Such campaigns do not concentrate on any particular group of nesting birds, but do take into consideration that all hole nesting birds in particular are experiencing an acute shortage of accommodation.

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