How to help our local nesting birds

Spring has sprung and the baby birds are about to as well. This is the season for most of the birds in Ohio to start nesting and growing their family. Here in Cuyahoga County, we have several types of nesting birds. Common ones include cavity nesters, ground/scrape nesters and cup nesters. So, what can you do to help? Read below to see how each type of nester can use your help.

Cavity-nesting birds are birds that use a hole or cavity to build and shelter their nests. We have both primary and secondary cavity nesters here in Ohio. A primary cavity-nester, such as a woodpecker, is one who excavates their own cavity by digging or drilling into a tree or river bank. Leaving up dead trees in your yard is a big help for these birds, as it is easier to make holes in.

A secondary cavity-nester is one that uses an already existing cavity and may slightly alter it by widening a hole or bringing in additional nesting materials. These are the birds that need our help the most. They have been in decline over the past decade due to deforestation and development. You can put up nest boxes/birdhouses in your yard to help them out.

Each bird species has set preferences of suitable cavities; including but not limited to, height of the cavity from the ground, diameter and location of the entrance hole, and type of tree/material. Preferences inside the cavity also differ from species to species. Some birds like a bare chamber, where others will build a soft base or complete nest of gathered materials. Make sure to research what type of nest box to put up based on what bird you are trying to help.

Ground/scrape nesting birds are birds that will nest on the ground or scrape a little bit of a depression to create a “nest.” They can be quite camouflage, so it is important to keep an eye out for them. If you notice a ground nest, make sure to keep your distance, do not mow over the area and keep your pets away.

Some of the ground nesting species like to hide their nests in grasslands or shrubs, so keeping a pile of your fallen branches in your backyard creates a nice little shelter for these species. Also keep an eye out for ground nests while walking on the beach. There are quite a few shorebirds that use these types of nests.

Cup nester birds build various size cups in trees and shrubs. These birds build your more traditional style of nest which we often associate with birds. You can help these birds by adding native trees and shrubs to your property.

Check your shrubs for nests before you trim them. Since spring is a stormy time of the year, you may find a fallen cup nest. If you can, try to put it back up in the tree it came from if there are still eggs or baby birds. If it is too fragile, you can fortify it by putting it in a container and returning it to the tree. If you do this make sure to poke holes in the bottom to release water.

On the other hand, if you find only a fallen un-feathered baby bird near a nest and you are able, put it back in the nest safely. If it is fully feathered, leave it alone.

By helping the birds, you are contributing to helping our local ecosystem. In addition to that, an added perk is they are great at insect control.

Catherine Salva

I am middle school educator and coach who is passionate about wildlife and conservation. I am currently pursuing a graduate degree in conservation at Miami University.

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Volume 15, Issue 6, Posted 9:23 AM, 04.04.2023