WHY INSTALL A BLUEBIRD NESTBOX ON A POLE? WHY TWO PREDATOR GUARDS?


There are reasons–important ones from those who have learned from experience of losing bluebirds to predators.  Once you’ve lost them and see it firsthand, you never want to see it again.    Take a look at this box and read the text below the box.  This is one of my displays when I give a presentation.   The VBS recently talked about this in one of their newsletters, particularly the use of the Noel hardware cloth guard over the entry hole.  See diagrams below.  I am happy to answer any questions.   More bluebirds fledge successfully with a monitored box with predator guards.   It’s been proven by the VBS statistics.


Per the VBS at their website:  http://www.virginiabluebirds.org:

Predator Guard Designs

We utilize two types of predator guards to help limit predation of our bluebird nest boxes. One we call the Cat/Raccoon Guard is made of a heavy wire mesh and goes on the front of the nest box to help fend off raccoons, cats, opossums, large birds, etc. This works by backing the critters off so it is too far of a reach into the box to get the eggs or babies. The pattern for the Raccoon Guard now posted on this site is slightly different from our original version. We have changed it to make it easier to cut out and lace together. The other guard, Snake Guard, is made of round metal ducting material and is installed on the mounting pole for the nest box. This guard is primarily to inhibit access by snakes which just love to dine on little birds and eggs. This guard can also fend off climbing cats, squirrels, raccoons, etc. (It also provides a bit of a challenge for squirrels when used on pole-mounted bird feeders.)

This snake is fed by bluebird nestlings. This is a wonderful nestbox; however, it has no predator guards on it....because no ground guard (particularly to ward snakes away), this snake made it to the nest. Note: The Black Rat Snake is a good snake. We must not kill them. Let's keep them off of our installed manmade nestboxes, though, and be good landlords of our nestboxes so the bluebirds can succeed in raising their family to healthy fledglings to healthy bluebird adults.

 

Cute little guy isn't he? He's very good getting to bluebird nestboxes. Use predator guards to help the cavity-nesting birds.

Recommendations below from the VBS for box mounting and guards below:

This is what I use on my trail. It's 99% effective for me.

Avian predators, raccoons, feral and housecats are predators. The entry hole guard has helped Virginia bluebirds succeed!

This is a modified North American Bluebird Society nestbox with the mounting diagram suggested by the Virginia Bluebird Society. It has the Kingston Stovepipe Ground Guard and the hardware cloth Noel guard over the entry hole.

A better PDF printout file can be found at: http://www.virginiabluebirds.org

This is a typical box on my trail.

22 comments on “WHY INSTALL A BLUEBIRD NESTBOX ON A POLE? WHY TWO PREDATOR GUARDS?

  1. Can I put a hole guard on the bestbox while there are eggs. The box was up 3 hours before they started building, but don’t want to scare her off either.

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    • Hello…not sure WHICH hole guard you are referring to, but the answer is yes, as long as both parents can enter and exit the box safely and easily. Once the eggs are laid, even that first egg, the parent birds are bonded to the nest and nestbox. I use the wider Noel Guard (which is made with PVC-coated hardware cloth). My birds love them and enjoy sitting in them (keep them protected while guarding their nest and feeding their young from hawk talons). I leave mine up year round. Put on your guards. I am interested to know which “hole guard” you are talking about, since there are several types. I’m sure you have seen pictures on my website what the Noel Guard is. It’s an amazing predator guard. I swear by them.

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  2. I lost bluebird eggs to a predator, probably a snake, last year, and do not want to repeat this year. Am willing to pay for a bluebird house system since I am not handy and can’t build my own. Would you be willing to build one for me and ship it to me? I can get someone to put pole in ground for me.

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    • Hello….I don’t build them for my trail and my counties which I serve as a County Coordinator. I have a builder I use. I don’t ship boxes and equipment out — just have enough for my trail and in my locale. I can recommend a good retailer to get you set up — you can either find a store near you (good quality equipment!) and all the pole and predator guard for it. It’s Wild Birds Unlimited. Or you can order online and have them ship to you. My bluebird friend from the Michigan Bluebird Society does build and ship. Here is his site on eBay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Eastern-Bluebird-Nest-Box-Locally-Sourced-Handcrafted-High-Quality-Construction-/322428380027?ssPageName=STRK%3AMESE%3AIT You didn’t mention what region you live. The reason I ask is WHICH bluebird species you are getting in your area? Wild Birds Unlimited (you can call and ask questions) and Jonathan Morgan is more than happy to answer your qeustions on getting your new setup. Here is Wild Birds Unlimited main website: https://www.wbu.com/ I’m sorry I didn’t see you messaage sooner. Do get it up as soon as you can. The male bluebirds are out looking for nest sites to show his lady love very soon! Best wishes. Do report back and let me know what you decided to do! If you need more resources of getting a good box, let me know, and I can find more for you to investigate.

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  3. We have our bluebird house on a post in the middle of the yard away from trees and bushes. We had 6 baby bluebirds fledge the nest successfully. I cleaned the old nest out and cleaned the box…then a day or so later they built another nest. I was regularly checking the nest then today after the eggs were about a week old….I went to check on them and they were gone. What can I put on my wooden post to deter predators since I don’t have my house mounted on a pole ? My post is approx 4×4 and very sturdy (the reason we Installed this type.)

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  4. I Had problem with a Squirrel climbing my Bird feeder pole eating all the feed.
    He quit that after i rapped Sharp Borbed wire around the entire pole. up the pole and back down the pole. it was ugly nasty. Effective Roman

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    • Thanks for sharing that. Since I believe in full conservation efforts for ALL wildlife, I try to DETER predators to my feeders and bluebird nesting boxes without causing injury to them I’m trying to deter, as well as other wildlife that come along…I would not be very happy for “ugly nasty”, as you described. I suggest using the 8-inch wobbling stovepipe baffle under your feeder instead. Or….try a very wide baffle instead under the feeder, at least 22-24″ wide. That will keep the squirrels off. I feel helping one set of wildlife (your birds at a feeder) is also worth not injuring others during that effort. I hope you’ll reconsider using barbed wire to deter squirrels.

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    • If you will feed your birds white safflower seed squirrels won’t bother it. They don’t like the taste. We were continually feeding the squirrels until we tried this. They came one time….tasted it and never returned.

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  5. I had decided to take down my birdhouse in my yard because I got tired of feeding snakes. This year I decided to try something different and I made something called a Kruegar mesh trap. My bluebirds didn’t come back this year, but I did have some Great Crested Flycatchers nest in my box. Babies hatched. Yesterday I caught a snake in my snake trap. It did not make it to the house. I considered other traps, but my problem is with black rat snakes. They seem to be impervious to all other traps, able to climb up the seam on the smokestack guard or get over the baffle. I was doubtful this would work either, but after yesterday, seeing that snake hanging there and knowing my babies were safe, I feel more confident that I can keep my birdhouse and enjoy whatever bird decides to nest there.

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    • Well, yes, the Krueger mesh trap works for snakes. My problem with them is you have to be THERE and get the snake (alive or dead) out of the trap below the nestbox. I, being a naturalist, can deter snakes using the 8″ wobbling stovepipe without the inconvenience of using a mesh trap. Once the snake is in the mesh, the parent birds are stressed to the max and do not enter the nestbox with a snake hanging below. It’s up to you what you use, but removing alive and dead snakes from the mesh is not my idea of fun. I have too many boxes to use that method. Good luck.

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  6. I built a small decorative wood duck house to put on a tree in my back yard. I noticed a pair of blue birds taking interest but never started nesting. I put some cypress wood shavings in the box, and two days later an egg appeared. I was excited to see this to the point where I installed a small camera on top the house looking down through a peep hole. Before I knew it, I had 5 hatchlings. I would come home after work and watch mom and dad feed the little guys until dark.
    The camera was also tied to my security DVR so I was able to play back and witness them hatching. I came home yesterday and turned on the monitor to find the nest empty, I was floored.
    Mom was frantically searching under the nest for her young, and would sit on the nest as though they were still there. I had to review the playback and knew I would be more upset with what really happened. A male house sparrow enter the box, and started pecking the defenseless babies, then tossed each one out the box. I became very depressed after viewing this, and then thought it was a bad idea to record this tragedy.
    I plan on building another couple of houses to specifications and mount on metal poles.
    Before I do this, “sparrows beware, you’re going down”……

    Kenny Logan

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    • Kenny, thank you for sharing this very sad story. Depressing, yes. I’m so sorry. May I share your story on my FB page for my bluebird trail and also as a main post on this blog? This is worth sharing to others that we need to understand that sometimes bad things happen. House Sparrows…this non-native overpopulated and reckless pest bird needs to be stopped as much as possible. Let me know if I have permission to share the text publicly which you so carefully shared here. Thanks.

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    • Did the house sparrows enter it because it had a wood duck sized hole? or will they get in the 1 1/2″ opening? I’m interested in making a few houses, I have 18 acres and my neighbor had bluebirds in all 3 of his houses this year. He was all proud and showed me when they came out of the house to fly commenting on “the daddy bird” helping, But suspicious, I checked on the net, and I swear I think that “daddy” was a blue jay. Thinking about mounting them on a 1″ conduit, 6′ up from a 5′ cattle post, (11′) off the ground. can a snake or coon shimmy up 6′ of slick conduit? thinking about not putting the stove pipe. IMO it looks a little tacky. Any recommendations?

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      • Hello, Walter! All of my nesting boxes are designed for all species of “cavity-nesters” that can fit into a 1.5″ size hole, the hole designed for Eastern Bluebirds. House Sparrows and House Wrens enter a 1.5″ entry hole. The Blue Jay species is NOT a cavity-nester. Source: All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “Blue Jays build their nests in the crotch or thick outer branches of a deciduous or coniferous tree, usually 10-25 feet above the ground. Male and female both gather materials and build the nest, but on average male does more gathering and female more building. Twigs used in outer part of nest are usually taken from live trees, and birds often struggle to break them off. Birds may fly great distances to obtain rootlets from recently dug ditches, fresh graves in cemeteries, and newly fallen trees. Jays may abandon their nest after detecting a nearby predator.” http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/blue_jay/lifehistory

        Mounting on a 1″ conduit sounds great and up from a 5′ cattle post (not sure what those look like)….but your question can a snake shimmy up that, yes, I am pretty sure they can, especially expert climbing rat snakes that use their scales to grip and climb just about anything. Regarding your comment about the “tackiness” of using a stovepipe guard for snakes and other ground critters that can climb poles, including mammals like raccoons and mice and feral cats, the Kingston wobbling 8″ wide x 24″ long galvanized duct is super effective to keeping back these predators. As far as I’m concerned, beauty is in safety for nesting birds, such as the bluebird, when we put up manmade housing. We lure birds to use something we put up for them–let’s make it at least safe for them. I don’t find that tacky at all. On the contrary, I get great satisfaction that I can deter predators with this guard. So to me, that’s quite beautiful! Neither does the Virginia Bluebird Society or other bluebird societies, and for sure, not the North American Bluebird Society. Here is a fact sheet you might want to read on the NABS website in PDF…easily opened or printed from your home computer. When you open this page, click on the PDF link “Predator Control”. http://www.nabluebirdsociety.org/Fact/bluebirdfacts.htm By the way, if the galvanized look bothers you, I have used Rustoleum primer spray paint and then 2 coats of a dark brown Rustoleum Ultra 2X Cover brand spray paint with good results. I doubt the birds will care how the stovepipe guard works. I highly recommend you protect your nesting boxes from predators; that is, if you want your nesting birds to succeed in fledging young. Whatever you do, please monitor your boxes. Too many things can go wrong with them if you don’t.

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    • Thanks for your reply! Regarding the Blue Jay, I was referencing kenny’s post above where a house sparrow entered his nesting box and killed and threw the blue bird babies. In my case, the fledgelings had left the box and were hopping across the ground learning to fly, and I suspect the bird hanging around and chasing them was a blue jay, a known predator from what i’ve read. I really can’t say for sure.

      Wasn’t intending to down the stove pipe design, I personally just think it looks prettier w/o it. Would an upside down flashing “cone” such as you see on wood duck boxes accomplish the same thing? As far as what I’m calling cattle posts, in my case, I have creosote and green recycled power poles, 10′ on center sticking up 5 from the ground and 4′ field fencing stapled onto it. If I mount 1.5′ of a 7.5′ conduit to that, and have 6′ from the top of the 5′ post, it’ll be 11′.

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