Nov 15, 2016 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, December 2016

Cozy Winter Housing for Birds

If you think birdhouses are just for nesting, you're wrong. On cold, winter nights, songbirds use tree cavities and human-provided nest boxes as shelter.
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You might be surprised at how many of your bird houses are used as nighttime roosts in winter. Telltale clues are there in the form of droppings, feathers, and bits of food.

If you live in a region with cold winter weather, you can make your nest boxes cozier with a few winterizing tricks. Start by cleaning out the box if it has messy old nesting material in it. Fashion a new nest cup of clean, dried grasses and place it in the box.

This is a good time to check the water resistance of your nest boxes. If the sides or top are weathered or cracked they may absorb rather than shed water. If the wood is too far gone, it's time to replace the house.

Otherwise, a coating of all-weather wood stain or light-colored latex paint will help keep the winter dampness out. Stain or paint the outside surfaces only and try to do it when birds are not likely to use the house.

This is also a good time to check the hardware on your boxes and poles. Wood can shrink as it weathers, and screws and nails can work loose. Are the access doors closing tightly? Is the box securely attached to the pole? Is the baffle still hanging properly?

The final bit of winterizing involves plugging the boxes' vent holes. These holes are vital in summer to keep the nestlings from getting too hot. In winter the holes are just drafty. We plug the vent holes using moldable clay weather stripping. Stuff the weather stripping snugly into the vent holes from the outside. This will help keep the body heat of roosting birds from escaping, and it will keep rain and snow from getting into the box. Cozy winter housing is a small gift you can give to your birds as the cold weather sets in.



About Bill Thompson, III

Bill Thompson III was the beloved editor of Bird Watcher's Digest and Watching Backyard Birds until March 2019, when he succumbed to pancreatic cancer.

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