Winterizing a Bird Nest Box

european starlings in bird nest box

One of the things that we like to do every year is to prep a bird nest box for our feathery visitors to the yard. Specifically, European Starlings.  I know, not everyone loves these creatures. The rest of us? We build nests.

At one point, I had instructions for building a bird nest box. I’d reversed engineered a Starling Trap and built it, minus the trap (it’s on my to-do list to post a list of “how to” instructions later on). Over the years, it’s evolved into three strategically placed nests across our yard, which are adopted and baby birds are born in each year. This year we put them up early and, by accident, we noticed that they were being used last month by some European Starlings for shelter.

In doing some research, we decided to winterize the birdhouses.  First, we inverted the bird nest box so that the entrance holes were at the bottom of the nest.  We also inserted wood shims where the vents were. Both actions help to reduce heat loss during the winter.  Next, we purchased some pine shavings designed for pets, which (in theory) shouldn’t have any insects or bugs, and sprinkled it liberally along the inside of the nest for bedding.

The first night, the nests were abandoned. We were worried that we’d scared away the little critters. However, the next night they returned. They removed some of the nesting material, however most of it they kept. The nice bit is that even if they clear an empty space in the back of the box, the pine shavings should block any cracks where cold air might get in. Some people actually caulk the cracks, however in the summer we want to open up the vents we’ve built to help cooling.

So far, two of the three nests are inhabited.  The third might be, however we built it with the hole on one end of an elongated nest, so there’s no easy way to tell if they’re in there. And within a week, one of the nests became home to not one, but two European Starlings. They seem to not mind the nightly flash photographs being taken, however this could also be because they’re conserving body heat loss.

A friend of ours recently remarked that his city has seen a sharp decrease in European Starlings, likely due to many home owners covering up exposed holes where the birds are likely to nest. We like to think that we’re reversing that trend, at least in some small way.