How to Prevent Premature Fledging
Fledging typically occurs 17 to 18 days after the birds have hatched.By monitoring the nesting box and keeping an accurate record of the first and last day of hatching, you can calculate the critical period in which premature fledging will occur if the nesting box is disturbed, i.e., 12 to 14 days after the birds have hatched. Do not check the box during this time in order to prevent premature fledging. The presence of encroaching predators, such as snakes, raccoons, and cats, can also cause premature fledging. In order to prevent an encroaching predator, install a stovepipe baffle onto the mounting pole.
Choosing Your Equipment
Purchase a top opening nesting box.Although they are harder to clean out, and more difficult for shorter people to monitor, premature fledging is less likely to occur if you have a top opening nesting box. This type of nesting box is especially effective at preventing premature fledging if the entrance is covered with a sock or piece of cloth while checking the box.
- To make cleaning more easy, make your nesting box open multiple ways, for example from the sides, front, and top. However, only use the top opening to monitor the box.
Use a plastic strawberry basket.Make monitoring easy by placing a plastic strawberry basket in the box before nest building occurs. Strawberry baskets allow you to smoothly and quickly slide the nest out of the box, without touching or disturbing the contents, to monitor it.
- It also helps with the removal of blowflies. Blowflies will drop through the basket and onto the floor of the nesting box instead of remaining in the nest with the baby birds.
Place a small mirror in the box.A small mirror is helpful to look inside the nest without disturbing it. Install a small mechanic’s or dental mirror just inside the entrance hole. Shine a small penlight at the mirror. The light will bounce of the mirror allowing you to see the nest with minimal disturbances.
- Use super glue to secure the mirror inside the box.
Monitoring the Nesting Box
Check the box in the afternoon.Avoid checking the box in early morning and dusk. Also, avoid checking the box during wet and/or cold weather, especially if it is less than 50 °F (10 °C) outside. Instead, check the box during calm, dry weather conditions. Remember that you only need to monitor the box during nesting season, i.e., late March through August.
- Avoid checking the box 12 to 14 days after the bird's eggs have hatched. Checking the box during this time can cause premature fledging.
- Do not check the box too frequently, i.e., every day. Instead, check the box only once or twice a week, or every seven to 10 days.
- How frequently you check the box depends on how serious predator problems are, how much data you want to collect, and how much time you have.
Make noise before opening the box.Before opening the box, make your presence known. If you do not, you might startle the female, and a startled female could damage the eggs.
- Make your presence known by whistling, calling out, and/or lightly tapping on the side of the box.
Spend less than a minute checking the box.Once you have made your presence known, slowly open the box. Do not yank it open. Spend less than a minute when checking the box to avoid stressing the birds, or chilling the eggs or nestlings.
- Once you are finished checking, slowly close the box, as well. You want to close it slowly because a sitting female or one of the nestlings might decide to fly out. If they do, you do not want to inadvertently hurt the birds by closing the door too quickly.
Keep good records.Every time you check the box, record what you see. This way, you can avoid checking the box during the critical period when disturbing the box could cause premature fledging. This critical period is 12 to 14 days after the nestlings have hatched. You will also be able to determine when fledging may occur, i.e., 17 to 18 days after hatching. It is ok to check the box during the official fledging period.
- Record the day egg hatching begins and when the last egg is laid. This will help you calculate when the critical period will take place. Remember, do not check the box during the critical period in order to avoid premature fledging.
- Also record what kind of nest you see, how many eggs and nestlings there are, and any evidence of problems.
Look for pests.There are a variety of pests that can make a home out of your nesting box. These pests include House Sparrows, paper wasps, fire ants, bumblebees and honeybees, blowfly larvae, mice, and snakes. When monitoring the box for these pests, always use caution and never reach in with your hands.
- House Sparrows are non-native birds that may attack and destroy eggs, nestlings, and incubating adults of native bird species. By identifying a House Sparrow's eggs, you can remove their nests from your box. Because these birds are non-native species, you may legally remove their nests, eggs, and young.
- A House Sparrow's eggs may be cream, white, grey, or green in color. All of the eggs are speckled with irregular fine, brown speckles. The shell is also smooth with a slight gloss.
Installing a Stovepipe Baffle
Purchase a galvanized stovepipe.It is recommended that you use an 8” diameter by 24” long stovepipe. Along with the stovepipe you will need to purchase a slender galvanized pole/pipe (.5” in diameter and 7 feet long), hardware cloth, 7” long hanger iron straps, and two No. 8 B32 by ¾” machine screws and nuts.
- You can purchase these materials from your local hardware or home improvement store. Find the stovepipe in the plumbing section.
- Purchase a tin snips tool to cut the hardware wire if you do not have a pair.
Cut a hardware cloth circle.Using the tin snips, cut a circle in the hardware cloth that is one inch bigger than the diameter of the stovepipe. Then, cut a small hole in the middle of the hardware cloth circle.
- The size of the hole should be the size of the mounting pole’s diameter. For example, if your mounting pole is .5” in diameter, then cut a .5” hole in the middle of the hardware cloth.
Place the hardwire cloth circle over the top of the stovepipe.Bend the edges down one inch and fit them inside the stovepipe. Slide the cloth an inch down the stovepipe, or until the cloth is fitted tightly inside it. Make sure the fit is nice and tight. Then, take your tin snips and cut three tabs in the top of the stovepipe. Bend these tabs inward and over the top of the hardware cloth.
Take your mounting pipe and hanger strips.Using the machine screws and nuts, bolt the hanger strips together and securely around the center of the pole. Bolt them no more than a foot from the top of the pole—the top of the baffle needs to be at least four feet off the ground. Then, bend the edges outward. These edges will support the stovepipe baffle.
- Place duct tape or a radiator hose clamp around the pole and underneath the hanger straps to hold them in place better.
Slip the stovepipe baffle over the pole.Do this once the hanger claps are secure. Slip it over the pole until it rests on top of the hanger clips. To discourage predators, the baffle should wobble a little bit.
- When mounting the nesting box on the pole, the bottom of the box should be only three to four inches away from the top of the stovepipe baffle. This will encourage snakes to go inside of the baffle and get stopped instead of climbing over the outside of the baffle.
- Keep the grass trimmed around the base of the nesting box to prevent snakes from hiding in the grass.
- Grease the mounting pole to make it extra hard for snakes and other predators to climb up the pole.
- Bird Guardians do not deter predators.
Video: 9 DAYS IN THE NEST - Baby Birds fom Egg to Fledgling a Compilation
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