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Create Shelter for Songbirds

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A tiny forest songbird called the prothonotary warbler is in deep trouble in southern Ontario. As few as four to 13 pairs of these bright yellow birds remain in Canada. Like many other woodland birds, they are gradually disappearing as we carve up forests for logging, farming, roads, and human habitations. This “fragmentation” decreases the distance between a forest’s edge and its interior, making songbird nests more vulnerable to predators like cats, skunks, crows, and raccoons. At the same time, cavity-nesting birds (like the prothonotary warbler) are having a harder time finding shelter because of the decreasing availability of hollow trees.

But there is reason for hope. The eastern bluebird, too, was once a rarity. Its numbers plunged due to habitat loss and the invasion of the European starling, which usurps tree cavities and deprives native birds of nesting sites. Thanks to people putting up artificial nesting boxes throughout its range, the eastern bluebird has made an extraordinary comeback. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada recently removed the eastern bluebird from its list of species at risk.

We can help solve the songbird housing crisis — while practicing a truly higher form of sustainability — by keeping our human junk out of landfills and turning it into songbird shelters. What’s garbage to us can be home to birds!

Turn scrap wood into birdhouses: Mount nesting boxes on posts or under eaves to shelter songbirds and boost their populations. This simple structure will accommodate bluebirds, prothonotary warblers, tree swallows, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, and wrens, as well as deer mice and flying squirrels. Invasive starlings and house sparrows can be excluded by making the entrance hole no bigger than specified in the following instructions.

Transform waste into brush piles: Recycle woody debris, such as fallen branches and clippings from pruned shrubs and trees, to create shelter for songbirds. Brush piles not only provide year-round cover for birds, they also are excellent nesting sites for small mammals and invertebrates.