We have a variety of bird boxes in place over our farm and this is the time of year when I am usually out and about checking on them. As natural cavities become less common, many species that depend on them do very well in man-made nest boxes. The species we mainly target here on the farm are the wood ducks, eastern bluebirds, tree swallows and northern flickers.
Many of the wood duck boxes are only accessible this time of year due to the frozen ponds so I take advantage of the cold weather to clean them out from last year and put in fresh shavings.
The wood duck is probably the most commonly known duck nest box user, but bufflehead, common goldeneye and hooded merganser will also make use of them. Usually the wood duck is the only one nesting in our area of Ontario, but last year a batch of hooded mergansers was raised on one of our ponds.
Unusual species sometimes make themselves at home in the boxes and screech owls and squirrels are quite common. It is more unusual to find a hibernating raccoon like I did in this box. This is also a sign that the box needs repairs.
We have had many successful wood duck hatches over the years. The photo below shows a duck nest with a mouse nest build overtop later. This duck nest was successful as hatched shell fragments can be seen among the nest materials and were evident as I cleaned it out.
But with success, comes the occasional abandoned nest.
|Notice the wear on the pieces under the hole made by years of ducklings using them to climb out.|
Bluebirds and Tree Swallows
I also cleaned out other boxes I come across.
Tree swallows use feathers found in the general area to build their nests, making them fairly easy to recognize.
|Tree swallow nest with egg.|
|Note the baby tree swallows in the middle of the mass of feathers|
|The empty nest.|