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Creating Space for the Birds: Nest Boxes

Have you noticed the new bird nest boxes around campus? The Environmental Studies department is using these boxes to monitor and conserve bird species in our area.

If you have been to campus lately, you might have noticed new wooden structures on poles throughout the campus. These are bird nest boxes, designed to create an artificial nest cavity for birds to build their nests in.

You may be familiar with robins, blue jays, and cardinals—they are all open cup nesting birds who build nests in trees and bushes. These boxes are not for them. Instead, some species of birds require a cavity in a tree for nesting. These species—called secondary cavity nesters—cannot make their own hole so must search for a dead tree or a hole excavated by another animal.

In areas where we need to cut down dead trees as they may be a hazard for people, these birds often have a hard time finding a cavity to nest in. We can help conserve their populations by providing these nest boxes. This year, we have seen a variety of species using the nest boxes, including Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, and House Wrens.

The boxes are designed so that the side can open and a monitor can check on the contents. Dr. Allyson Jackson’s students in the Environmental Studies department will be using the data collected from these boxes for their senior projects. We hope to understand what species of birds will use our boxes, how many eggs they lay and how many of their nestlings survive—compared between the different parts of campus.

We ask that the campus community please leave the boxes alone—the birds do best if we give them space. The trained monitors know how to handle the boxes so that the birds will not be disturbed. Bird nesting season on campus runs from April–August, but the boxes will stay up year round as birds will also use them in the winter as a place to stay warm and out of the weather. 

We would like to thank ENV alumnus Zachary Mitchell for construction of 10 of the nest boxes as part of his Boy Scout’s Venturing Summit Award Service Project. The rest of the nest boxes were constructed by Dr. Jackson (and her dad) using funds from the Werlinich Environmental Studies Faculty Research Support Award. The birds thank everyone for their contributions and are enjoying a summer of nesting!

Please contact Dr. Allyson Jackson if you have any questions.