The mission of the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society is to provide opportunities to enjoy and learn about birds and other wildlife and to promote conservation and restoration of the habitats that support them.
The demand for real estate for birds that nest in boxes or holes in trees has never been higher! As dead wood is trimmed from trees, and as we continue to decrease the number of trees in developed areas, cavity-nesting birds have fewer naturally occurring potential nest sites. The resurgence of the Eastern Blue Bird, as a direct consequence of installing Blue Bird boxes all over the eastern U.S., is 'proof of concept' for the significant difference that providing suitable nesting boxes can make to the well-being of a bird species. It is now estimated that there are as many or more Eastern Blue Birds as at any time in history!
The Highlands Plateau Audubon Society (HPAS), in combination with local schools, public areas, and otherwise interested folks, has embarked on an experiment with bird box real estate! We know for a fact that bird boxes work well for Blue Birds when the boxes have entrance holes 1 ˝ " in diameter, and this is the size of almost all bird box entrances today. We suspect that some of our smaller cavity-nesting birds might actually nest more successfully in boxes that have smaller entrance holes (e.g., 1 1/8" in diameter). Smaller holes should preclude some of the larger bird species from competing for the same nest site and driving away the smaller bird species…but is this actually the case or not? To find out, HPAS, with a partial grant from the Mountain Garden Club, is providing pairs of bird boxes, one box with a large hole (suitable for example for Blue Birds) and one box with a smaller entrance (suitable for example for Chickadees) to test whether providing two sizes of entrance holes enhances nesting success for local cavity-nesting birds. The boxes are going up all around the community this fall so cavity-nesting birds can check out and compare their potential digs well in advance of next spring. The boxes will be carefully monitored through next summer.
So keep an eye out for pairs of the new nest boxes around public areas such as our local schools, the Hudson Library, the Highlands Biological Station, The Bascom, the Peggy Crosby Center, Cowee Mounds, and your neighbors' yards. Hint: most of the HPAS boxes are attached to metal poles, are about 5 feet off the ground, and at least 50 feet distant from the other box of the same pair. If you find a box, carefully observe which size entrance hole that box represents, and then perhaps search for the other box of that same pair. Time will tell whether "one size fits all" in the world of bird box real estate or whether the "not so big house" concept is attractive to some birds as it is to many humans. Next fall we hope to publish the results in this newspaper.
Contact the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society at 828-743-9670 if you would like to be a bird box real estate agent in the future!