Embellishment > For the Birds

Like humans, our feathered friends have distinct preferences when it’s time to house hunt. For robins, a tree is the bee’s knees, while phoebes like to nest on a ledge or tucked under the eaves. But other birds are even more discriminating about their digs.

Take Eastern bluebirds, considered harbingers of spring since they begin looking for nesting places at that time. “They can show up in New Hampshire at the end of March,” says Lillian Stokes, who lives in Hancock and has written thirty-one books on birds and nature with her husband Don. “They will be highly attracted to an area with housing, and you want to be ready for them.

Bluebirds prefer their houses between three and five feet off the ground, with
a hole not larger than an inch and a half (to deter starlings and other predators). These birds like to be near open fields, where they can find insects to eat.

Stokes suggests putting up birdhouses as soon as you can, as permanent New Hampshire avian residents—such as black-cap chickadees, tufted titmice and white-breasted nuthatches—will sleep there during winter. Tree swallows and house wrens, who are not fans of winter, return to New Hampshire in April and also will nest in a birdhouse. The swallows prefer to live near water or in a field, while sociable wrens are happy near human homes. Just make sure wrens’ houses have a slot that’s one by two inches, since the birds like to fill their nests with twigs.

Stores that carry supplies for wild birds can recommend specific houses for birds in your area—see some of what’s available on pages 16-18 in the print issue. Or you can refer to the Stokeses’ The Complete Birdhouse Book for advice on how to attract nesting birds or even build your own birdhouse, which Lillian says is a “great springtime project for kids.”