Written by Joe Meyer: Executive Director of LSP
Birds are a type of wildlife that brightens our day around our homes and on our properties. Over 3 million households in the US have bird feeders and 6.2 billion dollars is spent on seed and feeders annually! In fact, bird watching is second only to gardening as the most popular outdoor activity in the US.
Because birds are so common around the house, let me show you a few species that may be calling your home, theirs. Below are 6 species that are currently making nests and raising young either on my house of within 30 feet of it.
1. Eastern Phoebe
This species of flycatcher gets its name from its call which sounds like “Phoebe.” They like to perch on branches and swoop through the air catching insects, thus “flycatchers.” You can identify them by their distinctive tail bobbing when perched on a branch.
An eastern Phoebe found the top of our flood light just too good of a nesting spot to pass up. She is now raising 4 young.
2. Eastern Bluebird
The beauty of an Eastern Bluebird in the yard is hard to beat. These inhabitants of the prairie and oak savannah (which much of southern WI used to be) can be coaxed to nest near you by the placement of a bluebird nest box.
Our resident bluebirds have already fledged their first chicks (top picture) and may do so another 2 times in a good year. See our past post on increasing bluebird populations HERE
3. Tree Swallow
If you want a great aerial insect eater, try to attract tree swallows. Despite their name, they are typically found in open fields and prairies. They are one of seven species found in WI; see barn swallow further below. Like bluebirds, placing a nest box will attract tree swallows like a magnet. Decreasing the amount of mowed lawn you have will help with this. Unlike bluebirds that prefer an acre or more between nesting pairs, tree swallows don’t mind other nesting birds near by.
You can distinguish between a bluebird and tree swallow nest by the presence of feathers. Tree swallows love to line their nests with white feathers. They can get these from a number of different bird species but they love taking white feathers from our chickens.
4. Red-winged Blackbird
By sheer number, red-winged blackbirds are the most common bird in the United States. Despite being common, it is a great joy to hear their “conk-conk-lereeee” call come early spring. The beautiful males arrive before the females to stake out a territory. They flaunt their wing patches to impress the cryptic colored females, which may number over a dozen in his harem.
If you have an open, wet, weedy patch or wild area near your house, it is likely you have these nesting near you. You will know you are near a nest because the irritated male will be calling as he swoops down near your head. Stiff-stemmed prairie plants make a great nesting site for our resident red-winged blackbirds.
5. Barn Swallow
These are another magnificent swallow species named for their affinity for making nests on old barns. We have had these fork-tailed beauties make nests atop our flood lights, but in recent years, they have taken a liking to a few nest platforms I placed under our deck. These nest platforms, which I make out of old plywood, can attract several different species of bird to nest there.
6. American Robin
Who can forget Wisconsin’s state bird, the American Robin. We all look for them as signs of spring although many stay here through the winter in flooded woodlands feasting on berries. They are notorious for making nests in precarious places and this year I have two by my house. The first pair is already on their second brood of the year, nesting on top of a pillar under my deck. The second pair preferred the secluded site amongst my wood pile.
The birds of the sky nest by the waters, they sing among the branches. The trees of the Lord are well watered…There the birds make their nests. How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. –Psalm 104