I would like to build a gazebo-type wild bird shelter (4 sided) to shelter both the birds and the bird food.
I especially want it in the winter during the really cold and wet, snowy weather. (We live in northern Virginia.)
My question is this: is there a down side to this idea?
The feeders would be mounted under the overhang of the roof (which would be shingled) with roosting areas up under the roof above (but not overhanging) the feeders.
The posts holding up the roof would be "baffled" to keep intruders from climbing up to the feeders and roosting areas.
There would be no walls or floor.
The heated water source could also be under the shelter.
Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated!
Marcy from Northern Virginia
Answer: Creative Idea, But Would Create Problems for the Wild Birds
To provide a one “stop shop” for the needs of wild birds, is an idea that is often posed. It certainly does have its appeal.
Your plan provides wild birds with 3 of their basic needs for survival; food, water and shelter.
And your idea also proposes an element to provide for the fourth basic survival need; protection from predators, by mounting baffles on the pole.
There are feeders and bird watering combo systems available for purchase, but not with bird houses attached.
The problem with this plan is that it is like inviting the neighbours to dine in our kitchen when we are still in bed sleeping upstairs.
It would become a situation which would only be used for dining as most birds would not choose to nest or roost so close to a source of food. It would invite opportunity for larger more aggressive birds to harass the smaller ones.
It is better to provide wild bird shelters for roosting or homes for cavity nesting birds 5 to 10 feet from a food and/or water source.
They will also require a place to flee when exiting their home such as a bush or tree close by.
This distance allows the wild birds a chance to flee if a predator arrives on the scene from above or below.
The same is required for feeders. The birds will need a place to go quickly if they need to escape.
By locating your housing unit, food source or water close to a tree or bush, also provides a place for the song birds you want to attract to survey the area for any predators before they go to their destination.
2 Ways to Make Your Own Bird Refuge
If you do not have a tree or bush where you want to erect a feeder, bath or house then you can make your own place for the birds to go for refuge.
1. A shelter can be constructed by simply making a brush pile. Just pile branches and other foliage on top of one another to make a pile.
2. A used Christmas tree works well too.
This allows the little birds a place to hide from the line of sight of their enemies.
Many wild creatures will use this simple shelter as well.
Other Benefits of Wild Bird Shelters
Providing a place for birds to hide has other benefits to:
It provides a short enough trek to the food and/or water source in severe weather and allows them to expend as little energy as possible to reach their meals.
Conserving energy in this way to obtain their food allows them to use their energy to stay warm instead.
We have often had wild birds spend days in our cedar tree at the corner of our deck during stormy winter weather.
The feeder is only about 4 feet from the outer branches of the tree so it is only a short hop over for them to refuel.
One year we had 2 male Cardinals spend nearly a week together sheltering among the branches of the tree. They only ventured out to have a snack now and again as the winter winds tore through our area dumping piles of snow.
Another interesting factor to consider about man-made shelters is that they will not attract and be used by all birds.
Many wild birds will simply perch on a branch that provides some protection from the elements.
Some wild birds are solitary in their roosting habits and would only consider “buddying-up” for the night under severe conditions.
The cavity nesters such as Chickadees, House Sparrows, and Nuthatches will likely be frequent visitors.
They may also decide to use your shelter not only as a roosting spot, but a welcome place to build their nest to raise their young the next spring.
Location again is a key factor for consideration. If it is too close to a food source there is more chance a predator will be attracted to the eggs or the young nestlings after they hatch.
A more experienced mother bird may not choose a site to build her nest close to a location that may draw danger. But a young mother bird may not have the maturity to make the best decision.
Marcy you have an excellent idea in your concept to build wild bird shelters and have obviously given it a lot of thought. I would love to hear how your experience turns out whatever you decide to do.
Thank you for asking this most interesting question.