Housecleaning for the Birds

by John Deming

Each fall the birdhouses around our house must be cleaned, so next spring the new tenants will have a nice clean place for their summer at Clark Lake. Some are easier to clean than others. The McKay downhill ski model  is easy–unscrew the top, turn over and dump out the sticks.  Not the case for the Deming’s.  Our houses are made out of gourds, very artsy and functional with one exception–the fall clean out. The gourds have no top or bottom to take off, only the entrance hole that is 1 inch in diameter. The small size of the hole keeps out larger birds. 

The Deming’s main tenants are House Wrens that return to Clark Lake in early May. The male stakes out a territory and calls or sings incessantly, until successfully luring some female to his villa. Our part in this story is the housecleaning. You can see the amount clean up work necessary to provide a suitable nesting site by the pile of sticks that were inside the gourd. Remember the hole is only one inch in diameter and many sticks are two or three times that length.  The sticks longer than 1 inch can only go in one way, and that’s a massive effort for the male, based on the number of sticks found in the gourd.  And the sticks in the gourd represent only the ones the male successfully inserted into the house.  How many were just too big, not the right shape or color–and discarded ?

After the female lays her eggs, she then feeds the chicks insects until they are ready to fly.  During the time the chicks are being fed, coming too close to the house will bring a scolding from the parents, in the form of a hissing sound. Once this group of wrens is fledged, the process will start over two or three times during the season.

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RETURN TO ALL NATURAL ENCOUNTERS

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