Creating Homes for Wildlife
While many birds build nests from natural materials, many other species of birds are "cavity nesters." They typically use holes in trees such as those made by woodpeckers in dead tree trunks (" snags"), or those left when a tree branch drops off a tree trunk leaving a cavity in decayed heartwood.
Common cavity nesters include woodpeckers, bluebirds, some swallows, nuthatches, chickadees, and some waterfowl and owls.
Woodpeckers play an essential role in the life cycle of these cavity nesting birds by excavating holes in snags which other species re-use. But today, with many of the older and thus larger trees gone, snags are getting to be few and hard to find. Human-made nest boxes are essentially an artificial version of a natural tree cavity.
Artificial nest boxes are particularly important for species like bluebird, purple martin (America's largest swallow) and the strikingly beautiful wood duck. Critically endangered around the turn of the 20th century due to overhunting and habitat loss, wood ducks made a remarkable recovery and are now plentiful. This was due in part to the regulation of hunting, but more especially to a huge next box building effort by citizens. Thousands of boxes were placed in wetlands resulting in remarkable increases in nesting success.
Many other animals make use of artificial homes too. Human-made bat boxes and “Insect Hotels” can often make a big difference in survival for those creatures.
The most critical things to know when providing artificial homes for wildlife is making sure the homes are built to the right dimensions, made from the correct materials, and ideally positioned. There are many great resources available. Please click on the links below to learn more about providing artificial homes for each of the listed wildlife species.
Here is some general information on creating a better habitat for wildlife in your own backyard. And as your habitat becomes better and better for wildlife, consider becoming a Certified Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation or a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary through Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. This website is a great place to learn more about the types of wildlife you might find in your area and what to do to help them or what to do if they become problems!
For general advice on creating artificial nest boxes, go here.
For specific artifical home directions, visit the following websites:
Chickadee Nest Boxes
This design works for many other songbirds too. You just adjust the entry hole size based on the chart found at the link.
There are so many possibilities when building and insect hotel. The key is to provide a variety of options for the little critters. The link above is just a starting point!
Winter Roost Box
This is a box designed specifically for songbirds to use in the winter for roosting. It is different than a nest box.