Bird-Friendly Communities

Now is the best time to put up a nest box

Please welcome Audubon North Carolina’s Bird-Friendly Communities Coordinator Kim Brand. Launched in 2013, Audubon North Carolina’s Bird-Friendly Communities initiative is a partnership program involving more than 20 organizations with a vision for creating a more bird-friendly North Carolina. This vision statement guides the goals and projects of the group: “Bird-friendly communities give birds the opportunity to succeed by providing connected habitat dominated by native plants, minimizing threats posed by the built environment, and engaging people of all ages and backgrounds in stewardship of nature.”

Are you ready to make a home for a nuthatch in your bird-friendly backyard but not sure if now is the right time? Well, the best time for you to put up a nest box in your bird-friendly backyard is anytime you’re ready to do it. And for the nuthatch, the best time is NOW!

Brown-headed Nuthatches lay eggs and raise babies during a fairly short window in North Carolina – from March through May. But they have many uses for nest boxes throughout the year. The longer the box is up before breeding season begins, the better the chance that nuthatches will find and claim the box.

These birds are hard at work excavating natural cavities from November through May. That means that during more than half the year, they are interested in where they are going to nest come springtime. They have been known to begin building nests – adding pine seed wings, bark strips, decayed wood chips, and softer materials like feathers, cotton and wool to a natural cavity or nest box – as early as December.

Nest boxes also may attract young males looking for a territory to claim for their own. They might scope out possibilities any time of the year.

This nest box at Miller Park in Winston-Salem is ready for a nuthatch to take refuge inside. Photo by Kim Brand.

If you put up a nest box during winter, a Brown-headed Nuthatch could use it as a cozy bedroom on cold nights. Or maybe more than one nuthatch will show up, as happened at Hilton Pond in South Carolina one winter day:

“As we were opening a nest box for midwinter cleaning, a dozen or so Brown-headed Nuthatches exploded from within causing quite a rush and significant increase in our heart rate.” - Bill Hilton

Even if you miss the start of nuthatch breeding season, there’s always next winter and next breeding season. Know that by putting up a nuthatch nest box, you are helping these adorable squeaky birds for many years to come!

For more information on Audubon North Carolina’s Bird-Friendly Communities program to make a home for Brown-headed Nuthatch, visit our website or explore some blog posts.

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