Nature Notes: Fine-feathered housing crunch, part 2

<I>CRAIG SPARKS photo</I><BR>Unpainted wooden boxes like this are a big help to local birds.

Last week, we looked at the mathematical side of increasing our bird populations by installing bird nesting boxes.

This is the kind of project that you might draft Cub Scouts or elementary school classes for in the name of education - it really works!

The threats to songbird populations here are very acute. Just have a listen to the chainsaws taking down the trees faster than they grow and that tells us all we need to know about needing nesting boxes.

So, you bought or built or already have a bird nesting box. We don't want the access hole to the nest box to be too large, or crows and other predators can reach in and attack young birds. The hole should be about 1 and 1/4-inch maximum. If there is a perch stick, just cut or break it off - it's not needed and it gives intruders a place to stand while attacking.

For larger birds, wood ducks, geese and similar species, check out this Web site (http://birds.cornell.edu/programs/AllAboutBirds/AttractingBirds/Nestboxes/).

If you're ready to scout out the right location, keep these ideas in mind:

• Don't place the nesting box near bird feeders - too much traffic, too many wandering eyes.

• Protected places like under roof eaves are good.

• Wherever you decide, make sure the entrance hole faces north, northeast or east in order that no direct wet weather will invade the nesting box. Ninty-nine percent of our wet weather comes from the southwest, west or northwest, and that equals wet baby birds.

• Shady or partial shade locations are better than full sun, as our spring sun can be pretty hot for a box full of baby birds.

• If you must paint the box - we don't recommend it - but if you must, use water-based white paint, NOT oil-based paint. Better for the birds.

• If you have some sawdust, its a good thing to put in the nesting box, IF the box will stay dry in the weather. If you think the box may get wet, skip the sawdust.

• If you are using a box from last year, take it down and clean it completely with a weak bleach solution - this kills any mold or mildew that would certainly harm young birds - followed by a soapy water wash. Rinse and completely dry before re-mounting.

The efforts we make for these birds will be rewarded by the sight and sound of more songbirds and their young as residents here on the coast.

It's all pretty intuitive - either you're part of the problem, or you make nesting boxes ... simple. I'm a tree-hugger myself.

Next week, we'll introduce a new format for Nature Notes, and in the weeks to come, we'll be adding interactive opinion polls, more info links, essential reading pages, and environment action alerts and much more!

Check out our new weekly nature movie at (http://home.earthlink.net/~wildnature1/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/current.mov).

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

Found injured wildlife? Questions? Call the Wildlife Center (503) 338-3954 or send an e-mail to wildnature@earthlink.net.

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