Cave breeders suffer under housing shortage

Dormice – sometimes unexpected residents settle in bird nest boxes, too. (Source: K.H. Nübel)

That you can settle birds with nest boxes is known by every child. For a long time the nature conservation was put on a level with hanging up nest boxes.  Tits as insects exterminator were especially liked, the tits nest box with its round hole absolutely stands for bird nest boxes. Thereby meanwhile specific facilities for much more rare bird species do exist, which do only have few in common with the standard type.  Why do birds need nest boxes anyway? Earlier they didn’t exist either! Tree holes, niches and ledges as well as forked branches at trees are the original places where the birds put their nests. But there are only a few old trees with holes left in the modern forestry. And when the fruits don’t originates from meadows with scattered fruit trees anymore, but from low apple bushes, the orchards drop out as habitat. Cavernous trees at streets and within built-up areas get lost due to traffic safety. And finally do modern houses rarely offer nest possibilities, in contrast to old barns and open garrets. Nest boxes can fill this gaps. Their attachment should be done principally, so that the influence of weather and disorders are small. Ideal is an orientation of the hole to the south or east. The height and position should be chosen so that their save from martens and cats, but on the other hand easy to clean. Important ist the selection of the nest box material. Basically valid is: wood concrete is more durable than wood. If you build nest boxes, only natural wood is allowed. That wood boxes bear up longer claddings of bitumen felt can be attached on the sides that are especially exposed to the weather. Who places value on greater breeding success should do something more for the standard of the bird apartment. This includes protection from martens by a cuff around the trunk. Useful as well is the creation of a dry raised hide where the parents birds can dry some during rainy weather. If a nest box is handily attached, you can watch regularly from a safe distance without disturbing the birds. An opening of the boxes in order to examine the juniors should of course remain undone. It increases the attractiveness of nest boxes if you clean up the remains of the previous tenants. They’re often breeding places of bird parasites like „Federlingen“ or ticks. But a cleaning should be done only during the early spring or autumn. Reason therefore is that it can easily be that an in-between renter turns up during the winter: It’s not unusual that the dormice use bird nest boxes for the hibernation. Occasionally not the expected tits settle down but some very different apartment-hunters: A bumblebee colony, a sparrow family or even a whole hornet community.  You should act tolerance in this case and don’t apply the outdated pattern of tits as useful creatures and sparrows as vermin. Every species has its place in nature, and a sparrow also offers a funny spectacle when he takes a bath in the garden pond. And then you even forgive him a hand full of  “stolen”  currants. In addition the sparrows feed their juniors only with insects and small worms. Herbal food can only be digested by grown sparrows. It’s of course also very important that you go without insecticides herbicides and other pesticides. Or else the nests stay suddenly quiet and no cries for food show that junior birds raise in the narrow breeding cave.

Gerhard Bronner 

Various types of nest boxes.

The classical nest box is a case with a small round fly in hole in the upper half. He’s not only accepted by tits, for which it is intended for in the first place. By variation of the holes diameter it offers nest possibilities to a  wide range of bird species. A hole diameter of 27 mm is ideal for coal and blue tits, with 34 mm great tits, nuthatches, pied flycatchers or tree sparrows move in, and with an hole with 46 mm diameter and a lot of luck it can succeed to settle in our smallest woodpecker, the wryneck. An oval hole is especially attractive to the common redstart. The form of a nest box can be round, rectangular or triangular. Wagtails, spotted fly catchers, redstarts and redbreasts do demand an larger hole, so you leave half of the front section of an rectangular box open for them and just close the lower half with a board. Every child knows how swallow’s nests do look like. Chimney swallows build their nests in sheds, house martins on exterior walls underneath the roof collar. In the era of concreted and tarred places and streets it’s getting increasingly difficult for swallow’s to find construction material.  A puddle on open ground can already be a good aid. Building swallow nest’s on your own is due to their round form somewhat tricky. Therefore it’s simpler to buy premade nests made of wood concrete.

Slightly costlier and not in every private garden reasonable are nest boxes for nocturnal raptorial birds. For little owls, whose habitat are meadows with scattered fruit trees, you can hang up barrel-shaped nest tubes. Barn owls nest as generally known inside of buildings. Therefore attics in old sheds should not be tightly closed.  You can rather install particular barn owls there.

For several years the hanging of nest boxes for bats has increased. These nocturnal mammalians had a bad reputation in the past, but they’re harmless and adorable animals, who by the way consume a great amount of insects. Bat nest boxes should in contrast to the birds ones have their port  in the lower part of  the boxes. For some bat species it is enough to attach wooden boards with a distance of 2-3cm to the wall. In addition you have to make the sides draughtproof.
Bats do not use their nest boxes in spring or summer but during the winter half year for their hibernation. To whom the construction of nest boxes is to laboured, can buy ready-built boxes by a specialized  company (e.g. Schwegler Vogelschutzgeräte).

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