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.
Share:

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 is the editor of Bird Watcher's Digest by day. He's also a keen birder, the author of many books, a dad, a field trip leader, an ecotourism consultant, a guitar player, and blogger.

What do you think? Tell us!

comments powered by Disqus

New On This Site

The Latest Comments

  • 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