Spring cleaning is for the birds

On warm sunny days in March, house finches will start scoping out potential nest sites. They love to use old Christmas wreaths that never got taken off the door. (Photos by Sharon Stiteler)

We are in the final stretch of winter. OK, sure, we could have another April blizzard, but many birds will return north in earnest during the next three weeks. Spring is already underway: Some great horned owls and bald eagles already are incubating eggs.

Now is the time to start your spring prep, especially bird housing wise. Here’s your checklist:

Check your wood duck boxes: Did anyone move in over winter? Do you need to kick out any squirrels? Sometimes you get Eastern screech-owls who decide to use them as a winter roost. Just make sure there aren’t any leftovers from the previous summer’s tenant, so remove any old bedding or unhatched eggs. Replace the wood shavings in the bottom of the box with fresh ones, usually a half pound will work.

Make sure your wood duck boxes are free of squirrels and loaded with fresh cedar shavings.

Check your chickadee boxes: Have any mice moved in? They have to go! If there is an old bird nest from the previous summer, clean that out. Once I opened a box and found an old paper wasp nest; those are much easier to dispose of in winter than they are in the spring.

Consider getting some nesting material, chickadees like to use fur and moss in their nests. Grab some fur from your pets and if you want to put out yarn, make sure it’s less than six inches long so birds won’t get tangled in it.

Prune your ornamental trees (or oaks)  right now, especially if there is a branch that might be getting long enough that a squirrel could use it as a spring board to your bird feeder or bird house. Trimming in winter is better for the tree and avoids the risk of cutting a branch that a bird might use for nest building.

Have any holiday wreaths or garlands on your porch that you put out in December? Unless you’d like a house finch nesting in them, take them down now. House finches are ambitious nesters and will lay eggs earlier than many other species of birds.

While you are at it, rake up old seed on the ground as the snow melts away. Moldy seed can lead to health issues for birds who face enough obstacles for surviving in the wild.

Categories: Sharon Stiteler

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