Three birdhouses anyone can build

Whether you're a seasoned woodworker looking for a creative gift idea, a concerned naturalist aiming to protect wildlife or a parent who wants to introduce a son or daughter to the joys of handicraft, you'll find that a simple birdhouse can be the perfect project. Most are inexpensive and easy to build, and they can provide nesting sites for many threatened bird species.

These three birdhouse designs invite some desirable North American bird species to roost near your home. Although the ones shown are simple and unadorned, you can easily dress them up with decorative touches to suit your taste.

Woodpecker House
Although a variety of woodpecker species (such as downy, hairy and golden-fronted woodpeckers) can use this house (illustration below), it is primarily designed for the red-headed woodpecker. This unique bird (recognized by its bright-red head, neck and throat) prefers wooded savanna, open woodlands, orchards, agricultural land and suburbia. Because this species requires dead trees (which are seldom left standing in developed areas) in which to excavate nesting cavities, the birds have become increasingly dependent on nesting boxes.

When building this type of nesting box, choose a log section that's at least 18 in. long. Cut 1-in.-thick slices from both the top and bottom of the log before you cut it in half vertically. Use a chisel to carve out each half of the log. Apply waterproof glue to secure the top and bottom slices onto the back section; then screw the front section in place. Finally, fill the nesting box with wood shavings before you mount it against the trunk of a tree at least 10 ft. above ground.

Peterson-Style Bluebird House
The eastern bluebird is a member of the thrush family and nests almost exclusively in cavities made by other birds (such as woodpeckers) or in nesting boxes. Populations have declined because of pesticide use and severe winters, but thanks to coordinated efforts to create nesting boxes for the birds, their numbers are slowly increasing.

Bluebirds thrive in semi-open land and rural locations, especially grass and hayfields. Place the box 4 to 6 ft. above the ground, and if possible, orient it so the entrance hole faces open land and points away from roadways.

The wide, sloping roof of the Peterson-style design helps to discourage cats and other predators, and the sloped front panel aids fledglings in safely leaving the nesting box (see illustration, above). But because the entrance hole (1-3/8 in. wide x 2-1/4 in. long) is large enough to allow damaging species such as the house sparrow (also known as the English sparrow) to enter, you'll need to make regular inspections to thwart these invaders.

Wren Nesting Box
Wrens are social, energetic birds that adapt readily to nesting boxes, and this design caters to the three most common species found in North America: the house wren, the Carolina wren and Bewick's wren.

Though semi-open habitats are their favorites, wrens aren't picky about their nesting choices and will often build several nests in various sites before laying their eggs. Wrens are also one of the few species that will occupy a hanging box — a preferable option if predation from snakes or stray cats is a concern. Choose a semi-sunny location 4 to 8 ft. above the ground for best results.

When building a wren box (see illustration, above), pay attention to the diameter of the entrance hole. Although 1-1/8 in. dia. may seem tight, this small size prevents sparrows from invading.

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