Birds Around Buildings
( Originally Published 1910 )
In addition to those birds which nest in closed houses, there are some others for which inducements may be held out to nest around buildings.
Robins. For robins shallow trays may be placed in suitable locations. Mrs. M. O. Wright, in " Bird-Lore," writes : " Three years ago I tried the experiment of having some flat, shallow trays about six inches square, bracketed in suitable locations so as to form attractive nesting-places for nest-building robins, who, as we all know, are fond of straddling a tree-crotch with their compound of clay and grass or utilizing any flat beam or odd nook that will go for a nesting-place. These boxes had a few holes in the bottom so that they should not hold water, and were placed so that a branch or other protection afforded at least partial top shelter. The first season the robins examined but distrusted the contrivance; the second, two were used ; while last year five were occupied by robins and the sixth was appropriated by a phoebe, who has thus kindly given me a hint for more trays to be placed in locations likely to suit this lovable worker for garden good."
Phoebe. The phoebe prefers some covering above its nest, and for this bird, shelves or open boxes may be nailed to plates or rafters in barns, cellars, and low sheds.
Barn Swallow. ---For barn swallows cleats may be nailed horizontally to the rafters of the barn, or bracket-shelves may be put up. A hole should be made in the barn and left constantly open, so that the birds may come in at will. Perhaps the scarcity of these birds in some localities may be due to the modern style of barn, with its tightly closed sides. An ornamental opening can easily be made in the gable, which will in no way detract from the appearance or use of the building. If desired, this can be closed during the winter.
Eave Swallow. For the eave swallows a long shelf or cleat may be fastened just under the eaves of a barn.
Chimney Swift. It is worth while to experiment with the chimney swifts, by making artificial chimneys of wood in imitation of the old-fashioned chimneys so commonly frequented by these birds. A few cleats nailed horizontally may assist the birds in attaching their nest. Such a box may be placed anywhere on the roof. This board chimney has been successfully tried.
Nesting-material. There are still other birds, which, while they will not allow us to choose the exact site of their nest for them, may sometimes be induced to locate their nest in our immediate vicinity if some materials which can be utilized in the construction of the nest are placed in a conspicuous place which is easily accessible. A careful examination of a large number of nests over large areas would probably show that there are few of our common species that do not occasionally use materials which have been manufactured by man, such as yarn, string, paper, etc. This follows naturally from the habit which many birds have of nesting near human habitations. There are certain species, however, which use an unusually large proportion of such material, as the Baltimore oriole and the vireos. The chipping sparrow nearly always lines its nest with horse-hair. In the nest of a kingbird, which was located in the gutter of a house, the following materials were found : strings, cotton, three kinds of cloth, tape, knit goods, and linen. Robins very commonly use large pieces of cloth.
Material to be exposed. Some of the materials which may be exposed on fences, bushes, trees, etc., are the following : yarn, string, thread, rags, horsehair, straw, tufts of cotton and wool, small strips of cloth, pieces of grape-vine bark, feathers. The yarn, strings, etc., should be of sombre color, as these are preferred by the birds to the brilliant colors, which would tend to make the nest conspicuous ; and these pieces should be cut into lengths of not over twelve inches, lest the birds become entangled and hang themselves. Tragedies of this kind do occur occasionally. If any of the material is taken by the birds, it furnishes opportunity for locating the nest, so that such means may be taken as are necessary to protect the occupants.
Mud. The robin, swallow, and phoebe use mud in their nests, so that if in dry seasons pans of mud are set in easily accessible but protected places, they may be found and used by these birds.