People can help boost the bird population, which would help farmers and local quality of life

Posted 1 May 2017 at 8:23 am


The Orleans Bluebird Society concentrates not only on its namesake but cavity nesting birds in general. Cavity nesting birds require holes of varying sizes to permit them to reproduce. Without hollow places in which to lay their eggs, they cannot succeed.

For chickadees the hollows are quite small. For birds such as pileated woodpeckers, barred owls, American kestrels and wood ducks, the cavities must be much larger.  Competition from squirrels and raccoons make the search for available cavities even more problematic.

A primary cavity nester such as a pileated woodpecker typically excavates its own basketball-sized hollow nest in a dead tree large enough to accommodate it.

Most cavity nesters depend on woodpeckers or natural rotting to provide them with the holes they need.  Kingfishers excavate cavities in creek banks and mounds of dirt.

Due, in part, to the elimination of many hedgerows, American kestrels have declined throughout the northeast.  They tend to leave areas where our actions might suggest we do not appreciate the hundreds of rodents, and many more grasshoppers, each of them eliminates in a year.  Not having them around is detrimental to farmers and, ultimately, to the people they feed.

Orleans County is a place where American kestrels can still be found—and seen. They provide another reason for people to visit.

Another terrific, beneficial, and gorgeous, cavity nester—the wood duck—is affected by a shortage of cavities as well. Its cavity requirements are even harder to locate than those of the smaller American kestrel.  Recommended entrance holes for wood ducks are 3” by 4” ellipses, and the space they require is considerable. (We had one killed by a mink the day before her 15 eggs hatched.) Without human intervention, their ability to successfully reproduce, delight—and serve—the people of any area is limited to a great degree by how many boxes we construct and erect in an abundance of otherwise ideal habitat in Orleans County.

Most of Orleans County’s best American kestrel and wood duck habitat lacks the cavities these two avian delights require. Where cavities are found, they are often occupied by squirrels and raccoons that are not being effectively controlled by hunting and trapping. Natural cavities that get used by kestrels and wood ducks lack predator baffles and invite our considerable population of mink and other natural enemies to access nesting birds and their young.

By supporting local outdoor sporting groups and organizations like Ducks Unlimited, each person can help.  You can make a difference. In the process, you benefit literally hundreds of other bird species—including ducks and songbirds—that do not require cavities to reproduce.

Sincerely yours,

Gary Kent