Monday, June 13, 2016

Birds fight over in-demand house

Ask any Realtor if some houses attract more interest than others, and the answer will be yes.

Potential residents can be attracted by the floor plan, the structure’s condition, its location or a combination of those factors. Often it’s price. The same things are true for birds — with the exception of price.

In our yard, we have several birdhouses. However, one nesting box more than any other attracts considerable attention. Last year, our in-demand birdhouse was occupied by a pair of bluebirds who moved in and raised their young only to have the babies stolen away before maturity by a hungry crow. 

It was sad to see that happen, but the bluebirds moved on and eventually so did I. This year, the bluebirds returned but after careful consideration — maybe recalling their previous catastrophe — they decided to nest elsewhere.

Shortly after the bluebirds left, a pair of red-bellied woodpeckers landed at the scene. 

Watching the woodpeckers check out the wooden structure filled me with confidence that new tenants had been found. After all, the location was great. It’s only a few feet from three feeding stations, including one with a suet cake that the woodpeckers had been frequenting for months. It’s also close to several fruit trees that red-bellied woodpeckers also seem to enjoy.

For several days, the pair poked around the nesting box. They went in and out of its single-hole entry and surveyed their surroundings while perched on its slanted wooden roof. They even went so far as to make a few modifications, a sure sign, I felt, that a decision to move in had been made.

While I’d be upset if a person interested in one of our rental houses took it upon himself to modify the front door, I wasn’t upset when the woodpeckers decided to make the entry hole in the nesting box bigger.

I also wasn’t bothered when I noticed the male bird spending a good part of an entire day cleaning house. The bluebirds must have left behind quite a mess because hours sped by as the woodpecker diligently tossed twigs, leaves, fluff and other debris out the box’s newly enlarged hole.

After all their hard work, I was surprised one morning when a bit of commotion above the nesting box caught my eye. Two pairs of birds were involved in a short but heated aerial argument. The red-bellied woodpeckers that had been so close to taking up residence were engaged in a territorial battle with a pair of great crested flycatchers.

The flycatchers won.  

It has now been three days since the battle ended. During that time, the male and female flycatchers have been busy making the nesting box their own. Although quite a bit of posing on top of the wooden roof has taken place as well as considerable investigation of the interior, most of the flycatchers’ work has been centered around bringing in nesting material to the fill up the space that the woodpeckers so recently cleaned out. Go figure.

It’s always exciting when a vacant home attracts interest. Birds may not have to pay rent or put down a deposit when they move in, but that doesn’t mean they’re home free. It doesn’t matter if you’re a person or a bird. Looking for a place to live always takes work. Competition can be fierce, but in the end, finding a place to settle in and raise young is worth the effort. There’s no place like home.

Below are two short videos of the great crested flycatchers:


  1. What a treat to have so many beautiful birds fighting over the same spot.

    Any tips for keeping wasps out of your birdhouses?

    1. I wish I could offer some suggestions. Wasps get into my birdhouses too. The way I figure it, the birds are probably better able to deal with wasps than I am. Nesting boxes are supposed to be cleaned out every year. We haven't done that to ours because they don't have a flap that opens easily. They have to be basically taken apart to clean out. As with the wasps, I decided to just let the birds take care of the housecleaning and I guess that worked because they have been busy emptying old stuff out.