Build a bird box. That sounds like a good idea. There are easy-to-follow instructions on Audubon and Cornell and other websites. The recommended dimensions are listed for each species of cavity-nesting bird that nests in our area. And there are recommendations on where to place the box, the height off the ground, and the direction to face them.
Only one problem. It requires building a box. A box with a roof and floor and walls that all come together and will not fall apart or be invaded at the first squirrel inquiry.
Now, I can put a nail or screw into a section of the board, I can almost cut a straight line, I can drill a hole, I can measure at least down to 1/4", and I have put things like my kids' bikes together, though as I recall it took nearly the whole week before Christmas. But let's face it, my woodworking would make a carpenter roll on the floor in laughter.
Fortunately, the birds don't appear to be too fussy. In fact, after following the dimensions recommended in building a bird box, I often go the extra step of writing the name of the species the box is designed for on the front of the bird box - just in case the product of my carpentry does not quite look like the ideal nesting site the birds are looking for.
If you are concerned with your building skills, let me put that to rest. Though only a few of my bird boxes are occupied in any given year, at least a few usually do get used to raise chicks, as do snags we leave standing. Last year we sat many a summer day watching a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers raise a brood in a tall dead tree (they drilled their own motel) in the backyard.
Here is the kicker. In the past, one box designed and labeled for a nuthatch was used by a Downy Woodpecker, while a nuthatch nested in a wren box. I guess being exact on dimensions is helpful but not always necessary.
One word of caution: I built a bird box to the dimensions for a Northern Flicker, then took a black magic marker and wrote FLICKER on the front of the box in large letters. However, my spacing left the letters very close to each other. The letters L and I ran together making them look like a U unless you were close to the box. So it looked like I was advertising the box (bird motel) for Fu_ _ ers instead of Flickers. OOPS. Never did see any birds using that box, though the squirrels sure chewed out the opening. Perhaps the birds are more discriminating than I think.
This spring we wanted to add a screech owl or saw-whet owl box to our list of bird motels in the backyard. Not having the appropriate lumber and due to Covid not willing to go into a box store to get some, I placed a request on Front Page Forum.
Three generous offers came in. We ended up with a board and other materials to build one or more bird boxes, and even received a kit entirely cut out, and drilled, ready to assemble owl box. What a great community we live in, filled with talented, caring, and generous people!
Dan T. of Jericho provided us with the owl box kit. He writes, "It was my pleasure! My son, Ben-6, helped and he and I will assemble ours soon. I’ll be sure to stay in touch with you about its occupancy."
Brian C. of Jericho left us lumber for another bird box build. And Jeff E. of Jericho left other materials for bird box installations. Jeff also shared photos of his owl box build and installation.
Below are some of our installed bird box motels with a current vacancy.
Designed and built for a Pileated woodpecker.
Maeve's [store-bought] wren box is used for multiple nestings nearly every year.
Build it, clean it out each spring and fall, and momma and papa birds will nest in your backyard.
Enjoy your backyard observing nature. She has a great deal to offer.
View the Owls of Vermont presentation by Zac Cota, sponsored by North Branch Nature Center and Green Mountain Audubon recorded Feb 26, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brNio65u1Y4&feature=emb_logo OR access the recorded presentation (and others) on the North Branch Nature Center web site at presentations. Five Hundred people (the Zoom limit) joined in to listen and watch this presentation on Feb, 26.