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DIY Bird Projects: Nest Boxes, Feeders & Baths

March 27, 2023

Birdwatching is an enjoyable and fulfilling pastime, and one way to enhance the experience is by engaging in DIY birding projects. By creating homemade nest boxes, feeders, and bird baths, not only can you attract a variety of birds to your yard, but you'll also contribute to their well-being and conservation. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore various DIY birding projects suitable for enthusiasts of all skill levels, offering detailed instructions, links, and resources to help you bring these projects to life. So, roll up your sleeves and get ready to create a bird-friendly haven in your own backyard.

1. DIY Nest Boxes

(a) Importance of Nest Boxes

Nest boxes are essential in providing safe nesting sites for cavity-nesting bird species, especially as natural nesting sites become scarce due to habitat loss and urbanization. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology explains that nest boxes can help increase the population of bird species that rely on cavities for nesting, such as bluebirds, chickadees, and swallows. By building and installing nest boxes in your backyard, you are contributing to bird conservation efforts while also enjoying the presence of these beautiful creatures.

(b) Choosing the Right Nest Box Design

When building a nest box, it's essential to choose a design tailored to the specific bird species you wish to attract. Different species have different requirements for entrance hole size, box dimensions, and mounting height. The NestWatch program from Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers a wealth of information on nest box specifications for various species, ensuring you create a suitable nesting site.

(c) Building and Installing Nest Boxes

Once you have selected a design, gather the necessary materials and tools for constructing the nest box. Many nest boxes can be built using simple materials like untreated wood, screws, and nails. The Spruce offers step-by-step instructions for building a basic nest box. When it's time to install the nest box, choose a location that is safe from predators, has some shade, and is within the preferred habitat of the target bird species. Be sure to clean and maintain the nest box regularly to ensure the health of its inhabitants.

Photo by Frank Cone:

2. DIY Bird Feeders

(a) The Benefits of Bird Feeders

Bird feeders are an excellent way to attract various bird species to your yard, providing them with supplemental food sources, especially during winter months when natural food sources may be scarce. The National Wildlife Federation highlights the importance of bird feeders in supporting bird populations and enhancing birdwatching opportunities.

(b) Types of Bird Feeders and Food

There are numerous types of bird feeders, each designed to accommodate specific types of food and attract different bird species. The most common types include tube feeders, hopper feeders, suet feeders, and platform feeders. The Spruce offers a detailed overview of the various feeder types and the birds they attract. When selecting food for your feeder, consider the preferences of the bird species you want to attract. For instance, black-oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet are popular choices for a wide range of species. The Audubon Society provides a comprehensive guide on the types of birdseed and suitable feeders for each.

(c) Building and Maintaining Your Bird Feeder

To build a DIY bird feeder, you can use a variety of materials, such as wood, PVC pipes, plastic bottles, or even recycled materials. For example, Birds & Blooms offers a range of creative DIY bird feeder ideas with step-by-step instructions. Once you've built and installed your feeder, ensure it's kept clean and filled with fresh food to prevent the spread of diseases among visiting birds. Regularly inspect your feeder for damage and repair or replace it as needed.

3. DIY Bird Baths

(a) The Importance of Bird Baths

Providing a bird bath in your backyard is a great way to attract a variety of bird species while also offering them a much-needed resource: fresh water. Bird baths provide a place for birds to drink and bathe, helping them maintain their feathers in good condition. According to the National Wildlife Federation, bird baths can also help conserve water as they typically use less water than other water features.

(b) Choosing the Right Bird Bath Design

When designing a bird bath, keep in mind that birds prefer shallow basins with a depth of 1-2 inches, as deeper basins can be dangerous for smaller birds. Additionally, the bird bath should have a textured surface to provide traction for birds as they bathe. The Spruce offers helpful tips on selecting the right bird bath design and materials to suit your backyard and the bird species you wish to attract.

(c) Creating and Maintaining Your Bird Bath

There are many creative ways to build a DIY bird bath using materials like terracotta pots, recycled items, or even natural elements like rocks and logs. Gardening Know How provides several ideas and instructions for making bird baths from various materials. To ensure your bird bath remains a safe and healthy water source, clean it regularly and refill it with fresh water. During winter months, consider using a bird bath heater to prevent the water from freezing.

Photo by David Kanigan:

4. Landscaping for Birds

(a) Importance of Bird-Friendly Landscaping

Creating a bird-friendly landscape is an essential aspect of attracting and supporting birds in your backyard. By providing a variety of native plants, shelter, and food sources, you can create a welcoming habitat that supports a diverse range of bird species. The Audubon Society emphasizes the importance of bird-friendly landscaping in supporting bird populations and enhancing your birdwatching experience.

(b) Choosing the Right Plants

Native plants play a vital role in providing food and shelter for birds. When selecting plants for your backyard, choose species that are native to your region, as they are well-adapted to local conditions and provide the best resources for local birds. The National Wildlife Federation's Native Plant Finder is an excellent resource for identifying native plants suitable for your area. Incorporate a variety of plants, such as trees, shrubs, and flowering plants, to provide diverse food sources and nesting sites.

(c) Creating a Layered Landscape

A layered landscape is one that offers various heights and structures, such as tall trees, understory trees, shrubs, and ground cover. This type of landscape provides a range of nesting sites, perches, and hiding spots for birds. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center offers guidelines on creating a layered landscape that benefits a variety of bird species.

5. Birdhouses and Roosting Boxes

(a) Birdhouses vs. Roosting Boxes

While nest boxes provide a place for birds to raise their young, birdhouses and roosting boxes offer additional shelter during harsh weather or for roosting at night. Birdhouses and roosting boxes can be especially beneficial during cold winters when natural shelters may be scarce. Bird Watcher's Digest provides a detailed explanation of the differences between nest boxes, birdhouses, and roosting boxes and their importance for birds.

(b) Building Birdhouses and Roosting Boxes

Constructing birdhouses and roosting boxes is similar to building nest boxes, with a few key differences. Roosting boxes typically have smaller entrance holes and are designed to retain warmth, while birdhouses may have larger holes and provide more ventilation. The Spruce offers a range of birdhouse plans with step-by-step instructions, while Bird Watcher's Digest provides guidelines for constructing roosting boxes.

(c) Installing and Maintaining Birdhouses and Roosting Boxes

Just like nest boxes, birdhouses and roosting boxes should be installed in locations that provide safety from predators and are suitable for the target bird species. Regularly inspect and clean these shelters to ensure they remain in good condition and free from parasites or debris.

Photo by cottonbro studio:

6. Bird-Friendly Water Features

(a) Importance of Water Features for Birds

In addition to bird baths, incorporating water features such as ponds, streams, and waterfalls into your backyard can significantly enhance its attractiveness to birds. These features offer additional sources of drinking water, bathing spots, and habitat for various bird species. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, providing water sources in your backyard can significantly increase the number and diversity of birds that visit.

(b) Designing Bird-Friendly Water Features

When designing a water feature for birds, consider creating shallow areas with gently sloping sides, as birds are more likely to use them for bathing and drinking. Ensure the water is kept clean and fresh by incorporating natural filtration methods, such as aquatic plants, or using a pump to circulate the water. The National Wildlife Federation provides guidance on designing bird-friendly water features that are both visually appealing and beneficial for wildlife.

(c) Maintenance and Safety Considerations

To maintain a healthy water feature, clean it regularly and remove any debris or algae buildup. Also, be mindful of the potential hazards associated with water features, such as the risk of drowning for small birds or the spread of diseases. If you have a pond, consider installing a pond guard or a similar safety device to prevent accidents.

7. Bird-Friendly Lighting

(a) The Impact of Artificial Light on Birds

Artificial light can have negative effects on birds, disrupting their natural behaviors and sleep patterns. Migratory birds, in particular, are at risk of becoming disoriented by bright lights, leading to collisions with buildings and other structures. The International Dark-Sky Association provides information on the impact of artificial light on birds and other wildlife.

(b) Choosing Bird-Friendly Outdoor Lighting

To minimize the impact of artificial lighting on birds, opt for bird-friendly outdoor lighting solutions that minimize light pollution. This may include using low-intensity lights, directing light downward, and choosing fixtures with motion sensors or timers to reduce unnecessary light. The Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) offers tips for selecting bird-friendly outdoor lighting that minimizes harm to birds and other wildlife.

(c) Attracting Birds with Solar Lights

Using solar-powered lights in your backyard can provide a more sustainable and bird-friendly lighting solution. Solar lights are energy-efficient and typically emit lower-intensity light, which is less likely to disrupt bird behaviors. Gardener's Supply Company suggests using solar-powered accent lights to highlight bird feeders, nest boxes, and other bird-friendly features in your yard.

8. Bird-Themed Garden Art and Decor

(a) Enhancing Your Backyard with Bird-Themed Art

Incorporating bird-themed garden art and decor can add visual interest to your backyard while celebrating your love for birds. From bird sculptures and wind chimes to decorative birdhouses and feeders, there is a wide range of bird-themed art available to suit any garden style. The Spruce offers creative ideas for decorating your backyard with bird-themed art and decor.

(b) Supporting Bird Conservation with Your Decor Choices

When selecting bird-themed art and decor, consider supporting artists and companies that promote bird conservation and eco-friendly practices. Many organizations, such as the Audubon Society, offer bird-themed merchandise and collaborate with artists to create unique, nature-inspired pieces. By choosing these products, you can help support conservation efforts and raise awareness about the importance of protecting our feathered friends.

(c) DIY Bird-Themed Garden Decor

If you're feeling crafty, creating your own bird-themed garden decor can be a rewarding project. From painting birdhouses to making mosaic bird baths, there are many ways to add a personal touch to your backyard bird habitat. Websites like Birds & Blooms and The Spruce Crafts provide inspiration and step-by-step instructions for various DIY bird-themed garden decor projects.