What Better Time Than Winter To Build A Nest Box.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website has directions for building several types of nest boxes for our local birds.  See Myfwc.com and search for “nest box”.  Also, don’t forget to provide dense native shrubs like wild lime, and Florida privet for nest builders.

My favorite is the purple martin house.  Go to purplemartin.org for full details and the latest research results.  It is best to purchase a metal purple martin house which looks like a small apartment building. Wood gets really heavy.  Get the easy to lower pole so that you can check the chicks each week for parasites without breaking your back. You may need to change the straw bedding too.

Predators include owls, hawks, raccoons, squirrels, snakes, crows and gulls.  You may want to modify an existing house, see above website, or make one yourself.  The new dimensions are seven by seven by twelve inches deep.  A divider in the middle with an offset 2.25 inch hole will make it hard for predators to reach in and grab the birds. Only the back room will be used to raise the young.  The house must be painted white to reflect sunlight and keep it cooler.  The male purple martin will defend the neighboring compartments, preventing others from nesting next door. Attach a divider between entrances on the outside.  Good fences make good neighbors.

Placing the house on a 10 to 20 foot pole a mere 30 to 100 feet from your home  and 40 feet from the nearest tree or wire (squirrels) will not only bring the viewing closer to you but also provide protection of the nests by your nearby presence.  It will be easier for you to scare away predators and control starlings and house sparrows that may occupy the nests.  These are legally unprotected, non native birds that should be removed.  Place a guard on the pole to keep off raccoons and grease a small section to stop fire ants from climbing up to the chicks.

Older martins will begin to arrive in February but are only passing through on their way to last year’s nests.  The yearlings will arrive about a month later and continue thru June.   They are the ones to discover and use your new nest box.   The entrances should be left open until September the first year. This year’s young, on their way to South America for the winter, will notice them and return the next spring.  Once established, the house can be taken down in June and stored until February.

A combination of houses and gourds should total 24 individual nests in order to make a sustainable colony.  These birds are totally dependent on the one million humans that provide them with nest homes.  It is great to talk with other nest providers and share knowledge and friendships.

Now imagine looking out of your favorite picture window and seeing dozens of these large swallows swooping, darting, diving, and stopping to feed their young.  What an exhilarating sight to see each spring and to know that each bird that you are seeing was added to the population by your efforts.