Nature Notes: A fine-feathered housing crunch

Nature Notes: A fine-feathered housing crunch

As anyone who has gone house hunting here on the coast recently can tell you, most of the fairly inexpensive houses are gone and what's left on the market place is a notch or three more expensive. The same holds true for nesting places for wild birds. The good, safe places, protected from weather and in a desirable location, are shrinking in number.

Not a day goes by that we don't hear a chainsaw taking down some beautiful big trees, and with those big trees goes down any protected nesting sites for wild birds. Those little saplings from the nursery planted after the lot was clear cut, dozed and burned, well, they just don't cut it, nest-wise.

Wild bird reproduction rates, when their environment is healthy and intact (and that's not here) is about 1.1 to 1.2 baby birds per breeding pair, per season, surviving to adulthood. That's when conditions are good! So you can see that it takes a lot of birds nesting their little hearts out just to have a few survivors. This doesn't even begin to address the numbers required for a population of wild birds to flourish or even to hold their own.

With the ever-increasing crow population and their learning curve of how to raid songbird nests increasing every season, combined with the rampant chainsaws and the mowing of dune grasses, the future for our songbird population, without our help, is bleak.

What to do? Wild bird breeding success is greatly enhanced by providing nesting boxes, real honest to goodness nesting boxes, not cheap dime-store birdhouses, properly mounted in appropriate locations, and of course, feeding stations.

We'll talk next week on how to assess just where optimum nesting locations might be found in and around your yard, and what to do with your new nesting boxes.

First, let's get out and buy or make those boxes, be they wood-duck boxes, goose platforms, duck nests, big hole boxes for woodpeckers and their cousins, the flickers or even squirrel boxes.

There is no reason to exclude bats as they also require nesting boxes for their increased survival rates, and they too are the victims of a clear-cutting mentality.

Just do the math. If you increase the survival rate from 1.1 baby birds surviving to say, 3.1, and multiply that by a few million and then that by the number of years they breed, perhaps five or six, you get some pretty impressive numbers. All because we took the time to give a damn and buy or build nesting boxes.

Between the crows and the tree cutters, the dune grass mowers and the rest who just don't get it, the birds have little chance.

We can do a great deal to increase the numbers of our coast's oldest residents. After all, they were the very first creatures to ever alight on this young coast.

Next week: how and where to place that bird nesting box to give it the best chance of being used by wild birds. See you then.

In the meantime here's some good reading on the subject: (

Check out our new weekly nature movie at ( )

Craig Sparks is director of NAWA, a filmmaker, freelance writer and wildlife rehabilitator.

Found injured wildlife? Call (503) 338-3954, or send an e-mail to:

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