Feb 28, 2018 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, February 2017

Dear Birdsquatch: Nest Box Dilemma!

If birds are not taking advantage of your nest boxes, it might be a problem with the placement.

Dear Birdsquatch:

I have put up nearly a dozen bluebird boxes along my rural road over the past five years. My neighbor is a farmer and he gave me permission to put the boxes on his fence posts. I've seen bluebirds on them and even going in, but I have yet to see any baby bluebirds, despite watching the boxes on a regular basis. I haven't looked inside them because I don't want to scare them away. Am I doing something wrong?

—Steve F., Portsmouth, Ohio

Dear Steve,

I had a dog named Steve when I was younger. I think Steve might have run away to join a pack of coyotes who were always following us. But I digress...

I don't want to tell you that you're doing anything wrong, but let's just say you aren't doing things as right as you could be.

The problem is the placement of your nest boxes. In your part of the country (and I've spent a lot of time in southern Ohio—it's beautiful there) there are a lot of predators that will raid an unprotected bluebird box. Rat snakes, raccoons, even chipmunks, will clean out a nest of eggs or nestlings if they can easily access it. And boxes nailed to wooden fence posts are very easy for these climbing predators to access.

My guess is that your nesting birds have been thwarted by predators.

I suggest you ask your farmer neighbor to let you put your next boxes on baffled metal poles along his fence row—but not so close that a snake or raccoon could reach the box from the fence posts. Nest boxes mounted on galvanized metal poles with a stovepipe baffle mounted on the pole underneath the box will make it nearly impossible for these nest raiders to find success. While it takes a bit of extra effort, the rewards of protecting your nesting birds are huge.

Good luck to you and "your" bluebirds, Steve. Now, excuse me while I go try to find some pizza.

About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.

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