Empty bird house

A mating pair of Violet-green swallows investigate a possible nest site.

Awhile back, say – oh – three years ago? I had a housemate who built a birdhouse, just from his imagination, so it was kind of sloppy and the hole was too small. He nailed it up onto a tree and it was promptly ignored by all birds. It is cute, and unconventional, and I never expected a bird to take a second glance anyway, so I left it where it was. Housemate moved on long ago.

This spring, suddenly, birds are checking it out! Maybe it just needed to get all the fresh cut wood and human smell off it? Maybe it needed a couple of tattered spiderwebs on the outside? Whatever magic it needed, this spring it was pumped full of that magic.

About three weeks ago, these cute, dark-winged, white-bellied, zippy birds perched on the birdhouse and began checking it out. I fretted about the too-small hole. It had always looked too small to me, but I really had no idea. The male and female pair seriously checked it out. For possibly ten minutes, they flew away and back, took turns looking inside the hole, perched on top, perched on the hummingbird feeder nearby, perched on the roof and branches. Then they flew away and I didn’t see any more activity for 10 days.

Last week, another pair came by! They spent another 10 minutes checking out the house. The female went inside! So maybe it’s not too small? But it looked very small. They flew away. This time I got photos and looked them up. They’re Violet-green swallows. And well named too. Look at those gorgeous iridescent hues. And the male’s bright white face really sets off the colours.

Female perches from the small opening and considers whether this would be a suitable home to raise young.
She squishes inside, to be sure, then squishes back out.
She calls her mate over to take a look.
The male Violet-green swallow takes a long, careful look at the place.
While he checks it out, she waits on top of the hummingbird feeder, wondering if there might not be an even better place, somewhere else.

The next morning, same exact time of day, two birds came back – same routine. Checked it out seriously for a good long while, then left for good. I resolved to fix the darn hole. At least if the hole was larger, I would stop blaming myself for the poor suitability of the home. I went online and researched the ideal hole size for a swallow. It’s 1 1/2 inches. I measured the current hole, and found it was 1 3/4 inches wide, and 1 inch tall. I was right: too small.

I bought a gun. Well, not really, but it sure looks like some kind of weapon! I went down to the local hardware store, explained what I needed, and was shown the perfect bit for my drill. When I attached it, it looked like some kind of super-hero weapon. Now I can really be Xena Warrior Princess like I always wanted!!

My new super-hero gun
Too short oblong hole
My precarious approach. I had to put rocks and tree branches under the legs to get it stabilized (do not try this at home).
Viola! Nice round hole big enough for swallows!

The next morning, at the usual time, I waited. They were late. It was a full twenty minutes past time and I thought I’d lost my chance, but sure enough, a pair of Violet-green swallows came to check it out. They spent about 2 minutes, then left. And never came back.

And that was the last time any Violet-green swallows came to check it out. Darn. Well, I did get my human smell all over it again, by trying to clear cobwebs. I just can’t help myself but clean things. Also, there is fresh cut wood smell too. Maybe next year.

As if it was a cue to the others, suddenly all the other birds in the garden noticed the birdhouse for the first time. It’s remarkable not because a bird was perched on a thing – that happens all the time. But birds are in this garden constantly and in three years I have never seen one on this birdhouse. Until that day.

Dark-eyed Junco. What the heck? You guys can build a nest anywhere! What are you doing? Shoo!
European starling. Hi there! You rarely visit. Is that just a good place to perch?
Wait, what? Seriously? You want to move in. Look, bird, I don’t have a drill bit big enough for you.
Wood duck. WTF. You have GOT to be kidding me.
Sweetheart. You’re adorable. But no. This is not going to work.
Look at her pretty blue feathers.

I have lived here for five years and this is the first Wood Duck I have ever seen on this property. I was purely tickled to see her there. There are good Wood Duck boxes on trees down by the pond, so I hope she takes a look at them.

Well… that was apparently the end of the story. No more fly-bys, and no more crazy visitors to the birdhouse. I’m hoping that next spring, with a nice big hole and no more human smell, it will seem like just the right place to a pair of swallows.

10 thoughts on “Empty bird house

  1. Haha, thanks for the laugh when I saw that duck! 😀 My guess is that the story is far from over. But even if nobody nests inside, many come to rest on it for a while and give you a smile. Worth it as such.

  2. Awww! You did a good thing and it went haywire on you. Interesting looking birdhouse. 🙂 You should not have been on that ladder alone with it so precariously perched but I get it. Maybe next spring. Great shots of the birds. Hope you are doing well. Hugs.

    1. Haywire indeed! I laughed out loud when the duck showed up. It seriously went Junco, Starling, Duck. I was cracking up. A duck. Good grief, ha ha. I am doing well and you are right, it’s always best to have some kind of back up plan or person nearby when laddering. But I just suck it up and figure it out. I’m on the roof a lot too, to clean the gutters and clear the stove pipe from creosote. I don’t really feel like I have a choice, and also it makes me feel so good when I can figure out a problem by myself.

      1. You need to plan on calling someone before and after you go up on the roof or ladders. That way someone will know you are in need of help if you don’t call back. I get the feeling of being an independent woman. I’m right there with you. Keep staying safe…Please!

  3. I have a friend with a family of Juncos nesting in a potted plant. Myself? I have Jet. Jet is a crow who lives in my 100ft tall Douglas Fir. He swoops over for treats when he sees me and also follows me around the yard. Last year he found a mate and they had two children, so for a while I had 4 roosting on my stoop for treats. Since then, the children are off somewhere living their own lives. This spring wasn’t a good one for Jet. I found a dead fledgling out on the lawn.

    1. That is a great connection to a bird, Rod. I love it that you’ve been able to share in that crow’s life, and you even gave him a great name! What a great story to have the whole family begging for treats. It’s too bad the baby died. I hope there were others from the same brood that lived.

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