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Title: Bird Houses, Baths and Feeding Shelters - How to Make and Where to Place Them
Author: Sawyer, Edmond Joseph
Language: English
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                              BIRD HOUSES
                       BATHS AND FEEDING SHELTERS
                            HOW TO MAKE AND
                          WHERE TO PLACE THEM

                            EDMUND J. SAWYER

    [Illustration: Wren]

                     Bulletin No. 1, Fifth Edition

                             Fifth Edition
                             Copyright 1955
                 by The Cranbrook Institute of Science
                       Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

                     First printed as “Bird Houses”
                First Edition, March, 1931, 2000 copies
              Second Edition, February, 1938, 1500 copies

  Revised and enlarged to include western species, baths, and shelters
               Third Edition, December, 1940, 3000 copies
                Fourth Edition, June, 1944, 5000 copies
                        June, 1951, 4000 copies
                 Fifth Edition, July, 1955, 6000 copies
                      September, 1963, 5000 copies

      Printed by Litho-Art, Inc., from type set and printed by the
                            Cranbrook Press

                           TABLE OF CONTENTS

  Foreword                                                              5
  Bird Houses and Common Sense                                          7
      Some Current Notions Corrected                                    7
  General and Miscellaneous                                            11
      Material                                                         11
      Entrance                                                         11
      Nails                                                            13
      Slabs                                                            13
      Facilities for House Cleaning                                    13
      Position of Boxes                                                13
      Undesired Tenants                                                14
      Thickets                                                         15
  Dimensions for Various Houses                                        16
  House Wren                                                           18
      Other Wrens                                                      18
  Black-capped Chickadee                                               18
      Other Chickadees                                                 19
  White-breasted Nuthatch                                              20
      Other Nuthatches                                                 20
  Tufted Titmouse                                                      20
  Tree Swallow                                                         21
      Other Swallows                                                   21
  Eastern Bluebird                                                     21
      Other Bluebirds                                                  22
  Crested Flycatcher                                                   22
  Flickers                                                             23
  Purple Martin                                                        25
  Tree-nesting Ducks                                                   27
  Hawks and Owls                                                       28
  Common House Finch                                                   29
  Robin and Phoebe                                                     29
  Bird Baths                                                           33
  Food Stations                                                        35


  Bluebirds                                                             4
  Nesting Sites, Natural and Artificial                                 9
  The Best and Most Simple Form of Artificial Nesting Site             12
  Discouraging the Uninvited Guest                                     14
  A Simple and Effective Box Bird House                                17
  A Chickadee Family                                                   19
  The Martin House                                                     24
  Nesting House for Ducks                                              26
  An Easy-to-make Box                                                  27
  Nest Boxes for the House Finch                                       30
  Nesting Shelves for Robins and Phoebes                           30, 31
  Bird Baths                                                           32
  Types of Feeding Stations                                            34
  Drinking and Bathing Station for Winter Use                          36
  Wood Ducks                                                   Back Cover

    [Illustration: Bluebirds]


Most species of the smaller birds which nest in hollow trees, and
therefore in bird houses, suffer seriously from intrusion by English
Sparrows and European Starlings. These two species, nesting in similar
locations and being prolific, tend to take up all available nesting
cavities, even ejecting native birds which have built or begun to build.
This condition, already serious, may become far more baneful than we are
as yet able to realize. It may even contribute to the eventual
extinction of Bluebirds, Crested Flycatchers, and Purple Martins unless
we provide nesting sites sufficient in number and suitable in kind for
all. The number of natural nesting sites is already far below that
required by these birds, and yet the Starlings in particular are
increasing alarmingly. There is no way to determine when a final
adjustment or balance will be reached or what the numerical status of
our native bird-house dwellers will be when such balance shall have been

In the case of the native species named above, we can at least help by
providing proper nesting boxes which will induce the birds to
concentrate about our houses, where the European Starling and the
English Sparrow menace may be more easily and effectively met than
elsewhere. The reader should note that the imported English Sparrow,
which is in reality a weaver finch and unrelated to our tuneful native
sparrows, is the only “sparrow” east of the Rocky Mountains that nests
in holes or bird houses. The shyer, more desirable, native species are
invariably harmless and should be both protected and encouraged.

The smaller of the bird-house species, such as the House Wren, Tree
Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Tufted
Titmouse are less affected by the intruders. These smaller birds can
use, and usually select, cavities with openings too small for either
Starling or English Sparrow to enter. However, there is still a distinct
practical advantage in providing proper boxes for House Wrens and other
small species. In many instances these birds fail to find places safe
from the ubiquitous English Sparrow and European Starling, which then
proceed in their well-known manner to work destruction. A properly made
wren house, chickadee house, or swallow house can be absolutely safe
from the foreign invaders.

More nesting sites, properly made and situated, are desirable, owing to
the destruction of birds’ traditional nesting sites over wide acreages
about cities and other settled areas, but the providing of suitable bird
houses needs no defense or excuse. Whether it be the beautiful and
demure bluebird, “bird of happiness,” the sleek and immaculate swallow,
the songful wren, “saucy and impudent,” the bustling and industrious
chickadee, or the alert and noisy flycatcher, the native tenant of the
bird house will be an interesting and entertaining neighbor, always
prompt to pay his rent in one form or another or in many forms and with
interest. Does one need any special excuse for offering hospitality to
such a neighbor? When birds nest on our home grounds, their destruction
of garden pests, mosquitos, gnats, and other undesirable insects is
concentrated where we can most directly profit from the results—our own
greater comfort and safety, better gardens, more productive orchards,
more verdure in shade trees and in ornamental trees and shrubs.

                      Bird Houses and Common Sense

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital A]

Although there are a number of points which should be considered in the
proper designing and placing of a bird house, there is one simple idea
which practically covers the whole subject. Every species of our small
native birds that nests in a bird house nested originally in a hollow
tree, by preference in a hollow of one unvarying type—the burrow made by
a woodpecker. Thus we need only know what the burrow of a woodpecker is
like and we have automatically solved in a general way the questions of
material; size and shape of entrance; diameter, depth and form of
cavity; height above ground; and situation. The nature of nesting
material and its whereabouts should play absolutely no part in human
plans for the prospective tenants. “Unfurnished” rooms are the only kind
for which birds are looking.

There is solid ground for assuming a woodpecker’s burrow to be the ideal
pattern for a bird house. The woodpecker, whatever its species, free to
excavate any form of chamber that it might wish, invariably uses _one_
type of burrow. The birds which by preference habitually adopt for their
own use the woodpecker’s abandoned home have likewise thus placed their
own age-old stamp of approval on that type. It is logical to assume,
therefore, that the artificial bird house should follow at least the
general plan of that long-tried and preeminently successful nesting
site. Since a theory may be plausible while yet utterly untenable in
actual application, it remains to add that abundance of experience in
building and placing bird houses all goes to prove the foregoing basic
principle soundly correct in practice. With or without benefit of the
plans and specifications in such a bulletin as this, a person who takes
his cue from a woodpecker will not go far wrong. In planning a bird
house, we must continually hark back to the idea of the woodpecker’s
burrow—or rather, we should never quite lose sight of it.

                    _Some Current Notions Corrected_

Attention should be called to some common misconceptions. The colony
bird house, or any bird house with more than one compartment, is always
a mistake unless it has been designed for Purple Martins. Yet certain
firms have for years been advertising “wren houses” of four or more
chambers. One who knows this pugnacious little bird tries in vain to
imagine two pairs of wrens living peaceably under one small roof! Every
bird house should consist of one, and only one, chamber—with the single
exception of a house intended for the Purple Martin, which nests in

The cubic capacity of the bird houses one sees is nearly always much too
great—often several times too great. Builders seem to believe that the
diameter of the nesting chamber should at least equal the total length
of the bird—a theory as erroneous as it is plausible. Plate I
illustrates the fact that the sitting bird normally occupies a space
measuring much less from side to side than the outstretched length of
the bird. Figure No. 4, Plate I, shows how much work is often made for
the House Wren, while figure No. 5, on the same plate, shows how greatly
this work may be reduced—with the greater inducement to the prospective

The square or rectangular door is another frequent mistake—a projection
of the designer’s own plantigrade and vertical personality.

To place the entrance at or near floor level is also an error. Remember
that birds close no doors against drafts, that their “beds” are laid on
the floor and consist of light straws, feathers, or other flimsy

Many a wren house with entrance (as it should be) too small for any
English Sparrow to enter, is hung _swinging from a branch_ as a further
protection against the unwanted sparrow. That is like beheading a
criminal and then, “just to be on the safe side,” shooting him into the
bargain! It is said that wrens do not hesitate to use these swinging
nesting sites, but we have our serious doubts. We have personally seen
one instance of a wren nesting in the pensile home of a Baltimore
Oriole, but it is significant that in this case we failed to find any
better site nearby. Some persons report success with this type of house
and prefer it because of the ease of putting it up and taking it down
without injury to a living tree.

Two doors, presumably entrance and exit, to a bird house of one
compartment is nearly as ridiculous an innovation as the two doors said
to have been provided by a famous scientist for the use of his old cat
and her kittens, respectively.

    [Illustration: Plate I. Nesting Sites, Natural and Artificial

    1, 2, 3, A nesting woodpecker, a Chickadee, and a pair of bluebirds,
    respectively. Compare length of bird with diameter of nesting
    chamber. 4, A wren house, as frequently made, of eight to ten times
    the necessary cubic capacity. 5, A wren house of proper and ample

Overcrowding is a prevalent fault. On an area insufficient properly to
harbor two pairs of wrens or bluebirds there will often be a half-dozen
or more bird houses. Tree Swallows are social birds and will occupy
boxes placed near to one another, but ordinarily, birds, especially
those of the same species, do not build near each other. It is a large
town lot which will properly accommodate more than one pair of nesting
wrens. Even the demure bluebirds do not like to build within a stone’s
throw of each other. While the martin colony may number upward of a
dozen pairs in the same house, there may not be other martins within a
mile. There is many a small village whose single martin house
accommodates all the martins to be found within a radius of several

The size of entrance seems often to be a stumbling block. One sees wren
houses with perfect bluebird entrances, and bluebird houses with
doorways best suited to wrens or chickadees or, at the other extreme, to

Although arguments, supported by some experience, have been advanced for
larger entrances, we nevertheless suggest entrances of nearly minimum
size—a suggestion based on personal experience and long familiarity with
the preferences shown by the species concerned. Apparently John
Burroughs was first to point out that when birds hesitate to enter a
small opening it is evidently because their bodies, completely filling
the entrance, render the cavity totally dark and therefore alarming. Cut
a few small auger holes to admit light, and the bird enters the now
somewhat less mysterious chamber. The holes also provide needed
ventilation, but they should be small and well above the entrance-level,
for drafts must be avoided. The entrance to the house for wren,
chickadee, or Tree Swallow should be, since it easily may be, too small
to admit English Sparrows. It is not possible to exclude English
Sparrows from houses of other birds in that way.

Finally, the mistake is often made of providing simply _a_ bird house
instead of a _martin_ house, a _wren_ house, a _bluebird_ house, or a
house for some other definite species. The result is that such houses
usually go unoccupied or else are promptly claimed by the first English
Sparrows that spy them. Any bird house will suit the English Sparrow if
only he can get into it, and he usually can get into _a_ bird house. So
avoid type _a_—the too common variety.

                       General and Miscellaneous


    [Illustration: Illustrated capital W]

Wood is the material par excellence for the bird house, the only
material which can be unreservedly recommended. Substitutes have been
used with varying degrees of success or failure. What glass is for the
window, wood is for the bird house. First, the birds are habituated to
it. It is a good nonconductor of heat, it resists rain and extremes of
temperature, and it can be made to harmonize with its setting. Over a
long period of time it improves, rather than suffers, from exposure to
the weather.

Soft wood with straight grain, such as pine or spruce, is preferable. It
is easily worked, may be nailed with little danger of serious splitting,
and is sufficiently durable. Slab wood, with or without the bark, and
old fence-boards make the most generally effective bird houses. If new
lumber is used, it should be rough, not planed; whether rough or planed,
it should be treated with gray, olive, or dull brown stain of a medium
shade. There are numbers of suitable oil stains on the market. The stain
should permeate the grain of the wood, without actually coating it as
paint does. Thickness of the boards should not be far from 1 inch. If
slab wood is used, it may be anywhere from ⅜ inch at the edge, up to
about 2 inches in the thickest part.

Leave the matter of materials for the nest itself entirely to the birds.
Not only is it quite unnecessary to place twigs, straws, strings, or
even choice feathers or other fluffy bits on or near the bird house, but
such action tends actually to defeat its own purpose. The prospective
tenants often seem to regard these well-meant efforts as evidence of a
competitor who has the advantage of priority. This is especially apt to
be the case when the materials are placed inside the house. Birds will
sometimes steal nesting sites and even the raw materials of others but
may choose to avoid the clash which such piracy entails, provided there
are other sites and materials not too far to seek.


There is always danger of the wood splitting when too large an auger
hole is attempted. Before assembling the bird house, make an entrance in
the front board. Start by drawing a circle the exact size of the
doorway-to-be. Then, just inside this circle, bore four holes at equal
intervals, using a bit not larger than ⅜ inch for the smaller entrances;
not larger than ¾ inch for the larger entrances. It will now be not too
difficult, by use of a keyhole saw or pocketknife and wood-rasp, to
remove the wood still remaining inside the drawn circle. Placing the
board horizontally in a vice will further insure against splitting while
the holes are being bored.

    [Illustration: Plate II. The Best and Most Simple Form of Artificial
    Nesting Site

    With dimensions appropriate to the species, this is the most
    generally attractive type of house for all species excepting the
    Purple Martin. It is the type especially suited for the chickadee,
    nuthatch, and Tufted Titmouse.]

          FRONT,—WOOD PEGS.


When a bird house is fastened to a support by the “toe-nail” method (by
driving nails at a slant through the sides and bottom), it is a good
point first to drill holes of the right diameter to fit the nails
tightly; otherwise splitting of the sides or bottom of the house may
result. Use flat-headed nails.


When slabs are used in house-building, the upright pieces may be
fastened to each other, at intervals of several inches, with a wire
staple having ¾-inch prongs one inch apart. These should be on the
outside of the house, where rust will color them to conform with the
rustic wood.

                    _Facilities for House Cleaning_

For inspecting the nest and, at the end of the season, for cleaning out
the old nest material, the top or some other section of the house should
always be easily removable. Exceptions to this rule are houses for ducks
and other larger birds, for which the entrance may be large enough and
the depth not too great for all such purposes. Do not open a house in
the owner’s presence. The more brief and infrequent your inspections,
the less they will disturb the birds.

                          _Position of Boxes_

Bird houses erected on poles are safer from predators than those placed
in trees. Houses for Purple Martins, in particular, need to be at a
distance from trees and buildings, and if possible near water.

Place your bird house where the sun will reach it during part of the
day, and turn the entrance away from the prevailing winds.

It seems hardly necessary to emphasize that, if possible, the bird
house, as well as the bird bath and feeding station, should be placed in
full view of a convenient window. To watch birds in their building and
other activities will prove a fascinating pleasure.

                          _Undesired Tenants_

The author once with complete success contrived and operated a
mechanical “bouncer” to meet a particular and aggravated instance of
bird trespassers. In case of interference with any desired tenant or
prospective tenant by rivals for the same bird house, the interfering
birds may be driven away by this device.

    [Illustration: Figure 1. Discouraging the Uninvited Guest.]

One end of a stout cord is attached at some point close below the bird
house. To this cord a rag or a piece of waxed paper about
man’s-handkerchief size is tied as conspicuously as possible at a
distance from the fastened end of the cord about equal to the height of
the bird house. The cord’s free end is then carried through a window of
your own house from which there is a convenient view of the bird box.
The end of the cord is fastened inside the window where it can be easily
reached and jerked, enough slack being allowed to let the rag at the
other end hang down. If the unwanted birds appear on or too close to the
bird house, the cord is given a sharp pull which will cause the rag to
jerk upward and frighten the intruder away. Repeat as often as occasion

Care should be taken to work the bouncer when only the undesired birds
are within effective distance. However, should the contending birds
actually come to bodily grips on or beside the nesting site, the fight
may be broken up by vigorous operation of the alarm. The author found
that this device, exercised as occasion required, in two days ended a
week-old continuous struggle between a Bluebird and a pair of Tree
Swallows in which the Bluebird had entirely defeated the daily efforts
of the Swallows to start a nest. The Swallows were left in possession,
quickly built their nest, and duly raised their brood.

Obviously, this device and procedure may be applied against Starlings,
English Sparrows, or other birds, regardless of species, which for any
reason one desires to discourage from building in a given bird house or
other nesting-site.

The use of a rag or similar object, instead of a bell or other
noisemaker, is advised because the range of alarm is thereby limited to
the immediate location of the bird house, so that the desired tenants
will not be frightened by the operation of the alarm when they are
within hearing.


“Reserves” of the favorite environment are as much a need for some
species as bird houses are for others. Widespread “improvement” and
“beautification” along roadsides is destroying the thicket, the favored
haunt of Song Sparrows, Catbirds, certain warblers, quail, and other
desirable species. A “reserve” thicket may be located in a secluded part
of the home grounds, hidden by a hedge if considered unsightly. It may
be almost any shape, but not less than 20 feet in average diameter or
much less than 400 square feet in area. Here weeds, tall grass, briars,
and dense bushes are allowed to grow wild, forming a tangle as they
will. If the bushes include such kinds as hackberry, hawthorn, sumac,
elderberry, and chokecherry, the thicket’s annual period of usefulness
will be extended. Including such a winter food tree as the mountain ash
will invite Purple Finches, Pine Siskins, grosbeaks, waxwings, and
perhaps crossbills.

                     Dimensions for Various Houses

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital F]

Following are specifications and remarks on the housing requirements of
the birds by species. For related forms not included in the table see

                                _Table I_
                               Diameter    Depth   Diameter   Distance
                                  of       from       of        from
                               interior  entrance  entrance  ground to
                               (inches)  (inches)  (inches)   entrance

  House Wren                     4¼-5½      7-9        1        8-18
  Black-capped Chickadee         3¼-4       7-9       1⅛        8-15
  White-breasted Nuthatch,       3¾-4½     8-10       1½       12-25
      Tufted Titmouse
  Tree Swallow                   4-5½       6-8       1⅜        8-30
  Eastern Bluebird                4-5      8-10       1⅝        8-20
  Crested Flycatcher             5½-6½     9-12       2⅛       15-40
  Flicker                        6½-7½     12-16      2½       10-35
  Purple Martin                  6-7½       6-8      2⅛-2½     12-14
  Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser     7½       12-15       4       10-20
  Sparrow Hawk                   6½-7      14-16       3       20-50
  Saw-whet Owl                   6-7½      14-16      2⅞       15-45
  Screech Owl                     7-8      14-16      3¼       15-30

                              _Nesting Box_

  Common House Finch             4½-6                Open      10-30

                            _Nesting Shelves_
                                           Width    Length     Height
                                         (inches)  (inches)     from

  Robin                                     5-6    8 or more    8-30
  Phoebe                                   3½-4½   7 or more    8-20

    [Illustration: Plate III. A Simple and Effective Box Bird House

    For House Wrens, Bluebirds, and Tree Swallows, especially. For these
    the house may be of weathered fence-boards or even, if need be, of
    new lumber stained some dull tint. For chickadees, nuthatches, and
    Tufted Titmice, rough “slab” material is preferable. Dimensions
    given are for the House Wren. For other species, see Table I.]

  TOP (INSIDE): 7¼^IN. × 7¼^IN.
  EDGE: ¾^IN. × 9^IN.
  SIDE: × 4¼^IN.
  FRONT (INSIDE): × 5¾^IN.
  BACK (OUTSIDE): 7^IN. × 5¾^IN.
  BOTTOM: 4¼^IN. × 4¼^IN.

                             The House Wren

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital N]

Nesting in all sorts of nooks and crannies, the House Wren is easily
satisfied. Moreover, this is often the only desirable species which can
be induced to build in so civilized and restricted a place as a small
city lot. Slab construction may be employed or old weathered boards
used, but new lumber seems nearly or quite as welcome to the wren.

Plate III illustrates a wren house and gives directions for building.
Distance from the ground to the entrance of the house should be from 8
to 18 feet. The place safest from cats is on the side of a building. If
the box is on a tree or wooden post, protection is afforded by a band of
smooth sheet metal such as zinc, 2½ feet high, starting not less than 4
feet from the ground or other point that is within reach of cats.

Two or three wren houses spaced as far apart as the yard or garden
allows will provide for the duplicate, unused, nests which these birds
often build, or for a possible second brood.

                             _Other Wrens_

For the Bewick’s Wren, which commonly nests around gardens, barns, and
dwellings, the building directions are the same as for the House Wren.

The Carolina Wren of the south, more inclined to seek woods and thickets
than to court man’s society, is not ordinarily a bird house tenant.
Still, a home like that described for the House Wren, but with the
entrance having a diameter of 1¼ inch, is not unlikely to be selected by
the Carolina if placed in a brushy area frequented by him and not much
frequented by humans.

                       The Black-capped Chickadee

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital L]

Lacking the semi-domestic status of wren and martin, the Black-capped
Chickadee is not a regular bird-house addict. He prefers the seclusion
of some unfrequented wood. Yet, not uncommonly, he is enticed by a bird
house. The specifications and illustrations for the wren house will do
for the chickadee. However, a cylindrical and smaller chamber with
somewhat larger entrance (1⅛ inch) is more likely to appeal to his
uneducated taste. He is still a bird “with the bark on,” and his house
should be quite literally in keeping. The author personally much prefers
to select a hollow branch, from which he cuts a foot-long section. He
then drills an entrance hole near one end, nails a piece of slab in
place for the bottom, provides a removable lid of the same material, and
thus constitutes himself a proxy for the Downy Woodpecker in providing
the chickadee with a home. (See Plate II.)

    [Illustration: Figure 2. A Chickadee Family.]

A wood lot or a neglected old orchard bordering a wood is the place for
the chickadee house. See Table I for measurements.

                           _Other Chickadees_

The Mountain and other chickadees share the natural nesting habits of
the Black-cap. Since this group is composed of birds of practically
uniform size, a house for any species should be the same as that
described for the Black-cap.

However, chickadees are in general birds of the woods. Few or none come
so near to being birds of “home grounds” as do the Black-caps. Houses
for them, therefore, will be appropriate chiefly about woods homes or

                      The White-breasted Nuthatch

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital A]

All that has been written of the chickadee and his housing problem
applies also in a general way to the Nuthatch, except that a slightly
larger entrance is needed for the latter bird (see measurements in Table
I). The Nuthatch, somewhat more than his second cousins, the chickadees,
is given to natural knot-holes in living trees. This propensity may well
be humored by giving him a house of the hollowed-out trunk variety. If
the trunk or branch so hollowed out has a knot which can be made of
proper size to serve for the entrance, then that is to add the ultimate
artistic finish, the final delicate “touch of nature.” See Plate II.

                           _Other Nuthatches_

The western subspecies of the White-breasted Nuthatch occur chiefly in
less settled or more restricted ranges, and they are apt to be less
accustomed to, as well as less accessible for, bird houses.

The Red-breasted, Brown-headed, and other small nuthatches share the
hollow-tree nesting habit common to the family. They prefer locations of
the wilder kind, so that the usual bird house is not likely to entice
them away from less sophisticated haunts. Yet it appears likely that any
of the species might select an imitation of its natural nesting site.
Build as for the White-breasted, except that the entrance should be but
1¼ inch in diameter.

                          The Tufted Titmouse

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital T]

The Tufted Titmouse is common in the south, where its distribution is
also much more uniform than in the north. In some places it has pushed
far toward our northern border, but there it is inclined to be of only
local and irregular occurrence. In general it becomes more and more a
bird of the wilder areas as it advances northward. Usually a wood or
woodside location will be the one most likely to entice this species to
a bird house. When and where the bird is found to linger about
residences toward the nesting season, the houses may be placed much as
for the bluebird or wren, but in a very quiet corner of the yard.
Dimensions are given in Table I (page 16). See also Plates II and III.

                            The Tree Swallow

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital T]

The Tree Swallow is often a bird of the small city, but may be expected
more dependably in the country or in the rural community. He is easily
satisfied as to a nesting place but it is sometimes difficult or
impossible for him to find a nook about our dwellings which is safe from
the English Sparrow’s intrusion. When nesting about inhabited buildings
he cannot well afford to dispense with the vigilance of his human
landlords. Small, quiet, and peace-loving, he is a particularly poor
match for the pugnacious sparrow. Specifications for the Tree Swallow
house are given in Table I. See also Plate III. The inner wall, between
floor and entrance, must be rough or provided with cleats, in order to
give the young a sure foothold. Several pairs of Tree Swallows will
willingly nest near one another.

                            _Other Swallows_

For the beautiful Violet-green Swallow build exactly as for the Tree
Swallow. Where, in the west, both species occur, there is the chance
that a house intended for the Violet-green will be taken by the Tree
Swallow. This chance, otherwise more than an even one, may be lessened
by catering to the Violet-green’s observed choice of local haunts. Barn
Swallows will sometimes use ledges, such as those described for the
Robin (page 29), when these are sheltered.

                          The Eastern Bluebird

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital B]

Beautiful, cheerful, demure, raising two or more broods in the season,
always a picture of “content in a cottage,” the Bluebird is the
all-round ideal tenant for the simple bird house. He is, however, not a
bird of the city, nor always a bird of the village garden. The suburbs,
especially the more secluded spots therein, suit him much better. He
tends, and that with ample reason, to shrink from the society of English
Sparrows whose rough, aggressive manners and harsh notes introduce
discord into his naturally calm and peaceful existence. By all means
provide a house for this peerless tenant; also be prepared to lend him
all possible assistance in policing his property until the eggs are
laid. Once the precious eggs are deposited, trust the prospective
parents to defend their treasure; for even the Bluebird is no exception
to the general rule that a brooding bird will readily put an erstwhile
successful bully to speedy and inglorious flight. See Plate III and
Table I for housing the Bluebird.

To provide for a second nesting and possibly a third, the procedure
should be the same as that described for the House Wren. See, therefore,
directions given for that species.

                           _Other Bluebirds_

The Western Bluebird fills the same role on the ranges and ranches that
is taken on the smaller farms of the east by his eastern namesake. Build
and place the house for the one precisely as for the other. The western
bird seems much more inclined than the eastern to adopt nesting sites in
or close to human dwellings.

The Mountain Bluebird will use the same type of house; its location, of
course, should correspond with the local haunts of the species.

                         The Crested Flycatcher

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital T]

There is a peculiar satisfaction in successfully providing a house for
those species, such as the Crested Flycatcher, which do not ordinarily
resort to artificial nesting sites. It is something of a “feather in the
cap.” Select a dilapidated orchard or an out-of-the-way woodside as a
location for the Flycatcher’s house; place the house and await the
results with expectations not too sanguine. Should fortune favor you
with an opportunity to watch these birds building, remember to look for
the famous dried snake skin almost invariably worked into the nest by
this species, not forgetting that the reason for its use is still one of
the mysteries. Measurements for the Flycatcher’s house will be found in
Table I. See Plates Plate II and Plate III for styles of house

                              The Flicker

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital I]

In general the woodpeckers choose to build their own houses. But as the
Flicker is so unlike other woodpeckers in appearance and in certain of
his well-known ways, it is not surprising to learn that he will readily
take possession of an artificial bird house. Naturally, a woodpecker
(and the Flicker is that) is scarcely an exception to the rule that
bird-house tenants prefer something along the general lines of a
woodpecker’s work. A section of a hollow trunk or branch of the proper
dimensions inside may easily be transformed into an ideal Flicker house.
Next best is the dugout type illustrated in Plate II. Finally, the
semi-cylindrical or even rectangular house will do very well if the
other specifications are about those given in Table I. The country or
the suburbs, not too near to a residence, is the right environment for
the Flicker.

A Flicker which took possession of a house I had placed for Crested
Flycatchers spent days in audibly widening the rectangular chamber until
a soft bed of chips was provided to receive the eggs. The moral is—make
the sides of thick, soft wood, and let even a woodpecker furnish his own
bedding. However, one or two handfuls of coarse sawdust thrown into the
Flicker house will be quite welcome to this bird.

    [Illustration: Plate IV. Martin House

    The foundation, each story, and the roof are built as units of
    uniform lateral dimensions. This permits adding more stories as the
    colony grows, and allows for easy cleaning. The central air shaft
    and elevated roof provide cooling by air circulation. A molding
    attached to the under side of the roof section and to the floor of
    each other section holds the section in place, aided by hooks and
    screw eyes as shown. A, Roof and upper stories assembled. B,
    Interior of one story. The bottom is cut out of the central chamber
    for the air shaft. C, Foundation or base. Its central cross-pieces
    are double thicknesses of ¾-inch oak; the rest of the frame is of
    pine ¾ inch thick. Four heavy angle irons (as shown) attach the base
    to the pole. D, Interior of roof section exposed to show outlet of
    air shaft and the screen-covered gable-end air vents (⅛- to ¼-inch
    mesh screen). E, F, G, Details of porches and railings. The railings
    and their supporting posts are of standard hardwood dowel stock.]

                           The Purple Martin

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital T]

This is the only desirable colony-forming bird-house tenant. Therefore
the apartment type of house is a waste of material unless intended for
Purple Martins and designed accordingly. Of the desirable bird-house
clientele, none is quite so sophisticated as the Martins in the matter
of a satisfactory location. If it is only so much as a biscuit-toss from
the ground, the martin house may grace a bandstand, a village railroad
station, or a busy village square. The house itself may be one of those
adapted doll houses, complete with chimneys, windows, fancy doorways,
and whatnots, ornate in fluted columns, bizarre in lightning rods and
weathercocks, pretentious with elaborate porches and other gewgaws, and
gaudy with rainbow tints. Go as far as you like, the Martin will pace
you. However, for those who would consider the bird’s point of view to
be of greater importance than their own, appropriate suggestions are
offered in Table I and in Plate IV. If painted white the house will be
cooler and may be preferred by the birds. The reader should be advised
that Martins are temperamental and will sometimes refuse to occupy a
suitable house because of some dislike for its situation. Furthermore,
Martins sometimes inexplicably abandon a locality where they have
previously been abundant.

    [Illustration: Plate V. Nesting House for Ducks

    The Wood Duck and (in proper places) the Hooded Merganser and
    Golden-eye are the duck species for which we may provide these
    houses. The location should be secluded and near the water; the
    exact site, 10 to 20 feet up on a stub or tree. Build preferably of
    rough slab material. See text.]

                         The Tree-nesting Ducks

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital I]

In suitable locations artificial sites may be provided for any of the
several wild ducks which ordinarily nest in hollow trees. These ducks,
as breeding species, are mostly northern, the Wood Duck being almost the
only one which regularly nests, except at the higher elevations, very
much south of the northern United States border. The Hooded Merganser
may appropriate the house intended for the Wood Duck, and vice versa.

    [Illustration: Figure 3. An easy-to-make box, especially suitable
    for ducks. Front and top are slab wood, the rest weathered boards. A
    close-fitting cleat screwed to under side of top, as shown, keeps
    top in place with help of one easily removable 2½-inch screw. See
    Table I, page 16, for dimensions.]

The location is of first importance. This should be a secluded wooded
stream or body of water. The stump or tree which is to form the support
for the house, and also the entrance to the house itself, should be in
plain sight from the water. It may be a hundred feet from the nearest
shore, but the nearer the shore the better. A lone trunk, or one of
several on the edge of a wood, will do. Avoid placing the house too near
the ground. Further specifications are given in Table I and Plate V.

                             Hawks and Owls

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital W]

We have alluded to undesirable tenants, meaning usually, or in
particular, the English Sparrow and European Starling. There is also
another class of possible bird-house occupants to be dealt with—the owls
and the Sparrow Hawk. The owls and the hawks are usually considered
taboo on account of their fondness for the smaller birds which most
persons wish to encourage. One does not ordinarily keep cats and
canaries in the same restricted and common area and expect pleasing
results. Yet, it may be quite another thing if an estate is large enough
to provide sufficient wild cover. Owls and hawks are as interesting as
other birds, and a wood, suitable in size and character, which lacks the
quota of owls or hawks natural to it will always be lacking in one of
its most proper assets and characteristics. To the true nature lover a
great wild forest from which owls are excluded might seem, at best, an
arboretum where there might as well be a name tag on each tree-trunk.

An occasional nesting site for owls in a wood of many acres, an
appropriate box or two for Sparrow Hawks in a waste tract or along a few
hundred yards of woodside will invite us to visit these places more
often and will provide a new zest to the visits. At the same time, we
are but following nature’s way of balancing the wildlife. Nor will the
smaller birds be seriously affected; there may be a tendency for many of
them to move in a little closer toward our dwellings for increased

A house for small owls and the Sparrow Hawk should follow the lines of
the house illustrated in Plate V, size of entrance and other dimensions
being given in Table I.

                         The Common House Finch

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital T]

The several western and extreme southwestern forms of the native House
Finch may, for our present purposes, be grouped with birds like the
Robin and Phoebe which find such a number and variety of chance but
suitable nesting sites that to provide still others may seem superfluous
effort. And yet, to see the bright red of the Common House Finch and to
hear his cheery song, say, in the heart of a city like Denver where one
looks only for English Sparrows, is to be tempted to offer this citizen
a more “desirable property” than the water-spout or other chance nook or
cranny in which he may otherwise elect to build. The most successful is
the open or semi-open type of nesting box, as shown in Plate VI, Nos. 1
and 2.

                            Robin and Phoebe

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital T]

These birds are not classed as bird-house tenants. When they nest in a
building, it is nearly always a deserted human dwelling or some other
structure made originally for man’s own use. In other words, the only
sort of bird house at all likely to attract Robin or Phoebe would be one
of cavern-like proportions in keeping with one type of natural site
which both species favor, especially the Phoebe.

The architecture of most human dwellings is such that either Robin or
Phoebe would find nesting-sites, as they often do, over windows, under
porches, or about eaves. But birds are not very considerate of the human
liking for cleanliness, and their nests therefore are often placed where
we least desire them. To lessen that chance and to furnish nesting-sites
when they do not otherwise occur on a given dwelling or outbuilding, the
following suggestions for nesting shelves are offered. The idea of
nesting shelves is not a new one, and experience shows that an effective
nesting shelf may be of almost any description.

    [Illustration: Plate VI. For the House Finch, Robin, and Phoebe

    1 and 2, Nest box for House Finch. The front is left entirely open,
    except for a cleat to hold the nest in place. Drainage holes may be
    bored in the bottom of the cleat, or the cleat may be raised a
    quarter of an inch above the floor level. 3, Nesting shelves for
    Robin and Phoebe. See text for directions. The raised rim shown here
    is not always essential, but it may aid the birds to get a start,
    since high winds are inclined to blow away the first straws from
    exposed sites.]

The accompanying illustrations will fully explain themselves. However,
it is well to emphasize here that the simplest possible shelf, if only a
mere cleat, is all that is really required—5 to 6 inches wide for the
Robin, 3½ to 4½ inches wide for the Phoebe; any length of 8 inches or
over for either bird.

The Robin often nests more than 25 feet up, the Phoebe seldom so high.
Place the Phoebe’s shelf 8 to 20 feet up, the Robin’s 8 to 30 feet.
Should the locality be in the country, one must chance a Phoebe claiming
a shelf intended for Robins; either species should prove desirable as a
tenant. Certainly cultivators of cherries, currants, and other small
fruits may well console themselves should Phoebes become their uninvited
guests! The Phoebe is a true flycatcher and has none of the Robin’s
special fondness for garden fruits.

    [Illustration: Figure 4. A roofed nesting-shelf for Robins and
    Phoebes. Length may be 8, or any multiple of 8, inches. Several ¼-
    or ⅜-inch holes may be bored through the floor for drainage, instead
    of in the rim as shown here.]

    [Illustration: Plate VII. Bird Baths

    1, Natural boulder bath; 2, natural flat stone bath; 3, cement bath
    on a stone foundation; 4, a ground-pool bath of cement with a border
    of small boulders.]

                               Bird Baths

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital B]

Birds are inveterate bathers. Bathing is the daily habit of Robins,
Catbirds, goldfinches, Song Sparrows, and most other small species,
whenever facilities are available. Artificial baths are most important
where other bathing places are distant or inadequate. In times of
drought, birds will resort so eagerly to baths as to form an almost
continuous daily procession.

The bird bath lends itself to endless variations in size, shape, style,
material, and cost. Often one may find a large boulder which, at the
expense of moving to the desired spot, will prove a ready-made bath if
it has a shallowly concave side. Or such a water basin may be chipped
out of a rock by a stone mason. Smaller stones, flattened and more or
less scooped, are common along many streams. One of these stone slabs,
mounted on a pile of supporting stones, makes an excellent bath. Failing
that or as a matter of taste, a massive shallow basin may be cast in
cement to take the place of the natural slab. A pool may be provided by
lining with cement and surrounding with stones a prepared spot in lawn
or garden. See illustrations. If desired, running water may be piped to
any style of bath. Whatever type the bath may be, the following rules
strictly apply.

  1. Depth of water should be graduated from nothing at the edge of bath
  or pool to not more than 2½ inches at its deepest; except that in the
  case of the larger ground pools it may be graduated up to 5 inches.

  2. The bath must be swept or sponged out daily or as often as it
  becomes much befouled.

  3. Inside of bath should be rough to allow the birds a sure foothold.

  4. If the bath is on or near the ground, no shrubbery or other
  possible concealment for cats should be within 25 feet of it. It is
  well also to have a branchy tree within a few yards of the bath or
  pool, so that the bathers when alarmed, may easily reach a place of
  safety, for their wet plumage will prove a handicap in longer flights.

    [Illustration: Plate VIII. Types of Feeding Stations

    Trays may be partitioned for different foods. Suet is sometimes tied
    to the supporting post. The swinging station, shown at the right,
    always faces away from the wind, but must be carefully balanced at
    the point of pivoting.]


                             Food Stations

    [Illustration: Illustrated capital F]

Food is the chief problem of winter birds. Cold alone is scarcely a
menace, while snow and sleet are chiefly harmful only when they cover up
the food. Given proper food, the only real requirement for a feeding
station from the birds’ point of view is that it shall keep the food
available, as by providing a roof to shed snow and ice. Among the wide
variety of birds which frequently patronize food stations, various
members of the sparrow and finch family, which includes the grosbeaks,
juncos, and crossbills, vie with nuthatches, chickadees, woodpeckers,
and blue jays as the most dependable boarders.

For winter birds in the northern states, it is well to have the station
in place and stocked with food as early as the first of November. These
birds are then beginning to establish hunting grounds and routes, from
which they will not stray all winter. Earlier in the fall, as again in
spring, ground feeding is the better method. In this, scatter the food
(millet, hemp seed, and so on) in the back yard, along the fence line or
at the edge of shrubbery or thicket. Juncos, Towhees, Song, Fox, and
Tree Sparrows, and many others will benefit. Eagerly devoured by the
waxwings are dried currants and dried raisins. Nearly all birds are fond
of suet. Tie sizable chunks of suet to trees and to posts of food
stations; this appeals especially to woodpeckers, nuthatches, and
chickadees. Other standard foods are millet, hemp seed, sunflower seed,
cracked corn, and bread crumbs. In addition, chaff and oats may be
scattered on the ground for quail, grouse, pheasants, Horned Larks, Snow
Buntings, longspurs, and others in localities wild enough for these
birds. Such feeding is particularly desirable when the snow is covered
by an icy crust. The food may be scattered under brush shelters, made of
branchy tree limbs loosely and irregularly stacked and roughly thatched
with pine, fir, spruce, or other conifer to keep out excess snow.

The care of a food station consists mostly in keeping up a supply of the
proper foods and cleaning out the food trays as often as the condition
suggests. A small separate tray of coarse sand will provide the grit
many birds require. A hopper arrangement for feeding grains aids in
keeping the food supply clean and it helps prevent the scattering of

    [Illustration: Figure 5. Cross-section of a drinking and bathing
    station for winter use. A flower pot of 8-inch diameter at the top
    is recommended. If a much larger pot is to be used, a more powerful
    light bulb may be required to keep the water free of ice in sub-zero
    weather. If the water is found to be overheated, its temperature may
    be reduced by placing wedges between the rims of the flower pot and
    dish or between the rims of flower pot and box.]

_Our publications include many useful manuals concerning birds and other
       wildlife. A descriptive list will be mailed upon request._

                     Cranbrook Institute of Science
                       BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MICHIGAN

    [Illustration: Wood Ducks]

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

—Corrected a few palpable typos.

—Included a transcription of the text within some images.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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