Dec 19, 2014 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, December 2014

Readers Write: Waiting in Line

Nest boxes intended for squirrels can become a home to other species, including honeybees and screech-owls.
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When my son, Ryan, and daughter, Amanda, were around 5 and 3 years old, we built our first squirrel box as a family project. Soon after placing it high in our maple trees, squirrels began to entertain as we watched their babies grow and frolic in and on top of the box—our gift to them.

Many years of squirrel observations took a detour when our squirrel box became the host of a hive of honeybees. Entertaining as it was, we decided it would be best to give away the beehive in the interest of safety of our children. A call to a local beekeeper brought to our mighty maple a man with a ladder and a "smoking cigar." A quick ascent of the ladder, a mighty puff of cigar smoke into the opening, and a quick seal with duct tape, our squirrel box full of valuable bees was rushed away in the back of a pickup truck.

Semi-retired 35 years later, I decided to relive the good times past by placing a new squirrel box in our mulberry tree. After two months of squirrellessness, I was surprised late one evening to see a strange protrusion from the hole in the front of the box. It was a screech-owl!

While enjoying the afternoon sun on the day of the first frost in Kansas, I was pleased to observe and photograph a brief encounter between a squirrel and the owl—on and in my squirrel box. I guess it's an owl box now!

About Michael Hurst

Mike is a semi-retired pharmacist who enjoys international travel and watching backyard birds from his deck in Wichita, Kansas.

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  • I have experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018