Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Life as a Landlord

My father made birdhouses for me to hang on the old volleyball net posts in my backyard. For the last two years, I have had tree swallows in the single house I hung and I loved watching them with their beautiful iridescent blue backs and snow-white bellies as they glided in and out of the house to feed the youngsters. Year one I had five babies fledge from the little house and year two saw a family of four babies fledge along with a mighty bad infestion of feather mites that swarmed over my arms when I took down the house after the fledging.

This year, my father made me two houses (one with a pink roof and one with a blue roof - how cute). I was hoping for tree swallows again. I hung up the houses on a Friday in early April and on Saturday morning tree swallows were checking out the real estate. But they seemed to have trouble fitting in the opening and soon left. I took the houses into work and bribed the Maintenance staff (with chocolate chip cookies) to enlargen the holes to 1.5 inches in diameter. The very next day the swallows were back. Whew. All is well.

Uh oh. Three days later, enjoying coffee on the deck, I saw a male house sparrow going in and out of one of the houses and the swallows were nowhere to be seen. Damn HOSPs. I went over to the box and evicted the HOSP by removing his messy nest. The other box was empty. I evicted the HOSP three more times over the next week before he gave up, but the swallows never returned. I was heartbroken.

I called my Uncle Jim (bird mentor extraordinaire) who assured me that bluebirds (who have up to three broods over the summer), wrens or chickadees may still move in. I kept my fingers crossed.

In mid-June, I noticed a bluebird couple checking out the house with the pink roof. Yipee! Meanwhile, a male house wren was studiously bringing sticks to the house with the blue roof. Whoa - I have an integrated neighborhood! The bluebird couple seem so loyal to each other with the male catching caterpillars and bugs from the lawn and bringing them to the female who continued to stuff the house with sticks and dried grasses.

The poor house wren (the males build the nests and then sing to attract females who choose a mate based on whether or not they like the nest) continued to stuff sticks into his house and spent many an hour singing at the top of his lungs in vain for a mate. Sometimes the sticks he would bring to the house were too big to fit in the opening and he would spend minutes figuring out how to get the stick in sideways. Quite comical.

The house wren still seems mate-less, but it could be due to the fact that his house is so stuffed full of sticks I don't think a bird could fit in there! A classic case of trying too hard.

The bluebird couple seem ready to settle down and make a family. No further sign of the HOSPs and that makes me happy.

I will keep a close eye on both houses to see if any families are created. My dad is proud that his handiwork is providing for little feathered creatures and I am proud to be a landlord that provides the kind of housing that birds want.


Susan Gets Native said...

Men always try too hard. But then, of course, when they are slackers, we scream at them.
They can't win.
Good luck, Beth's Birds!

KatDoc said...

Congrats on being a bird landlord! (landlady?) I have been one for about 15 years. I started with bluebirds and moved to purple martins, picking up tree swallows along the way. I have had wrens and chickadees too, from time to time.

I don't know what the predator situation is at your house, but nest boxes on fence posts, tree trunks, or your volleyball posts are a virtual invitation for snakes and raccoons to raid your bird houses. You might want to look into a different type of pole, one that you can put a baffle on, to protect your tenants.

HOSP. Don't get me started. I have been over-run this year. Keep on evicting their little butts. If it gets to the point where tearing out the nests isn't enough, e-mail me for advice and moral support.


PS: Love the header photo of the duck family :)