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Supplement to “Bird Retweet”

More tips for attracting birds
Offer nesting materials to your backyard visitors. Ornithologist Craig Scharf says, “Providing hair from the barber shop, scraps of twine, and straw can make it easier for nest construction.” Place these materials in mesh bags, such as onion bags, and hang them in the tree for birds to take. Be sure the material you use—twine, yarn, or string—to hang the bags is kept short to prevent birds from becoming entangled.

The best material for constructing a birdhouse is wood. Cobb recommends using lumber that has not been pressure-treated. The preservatives or chemicals used to pressure-treat lumber are classified as pesticides, so they can harm birds. Also avoid building a functional birdhouse with metal, not even for the roof. Metal can cause nestlings to overheat.

Attracting birds to your yard can be inexpensive. Instead of throwing away stale bread, slide a slice onto a tree branch for the birds to eat. You can even offer them leftover pieces of fruit or crumbled up crackers. Rather than buying a bird feeder, offer seeds in shallow baskets or plastic lids with drainage holes poked in them. If a birdbath isn’t an option, provide fresh water in old dishes from your cabinets. To avoid injury to the birds, do not use metal as it heats up too quickly.

To make it easier for young birds to get a “foothold” when leaving the nesting box, rough up the inside around the entrance hole or cut ridges into it during assembly.

Installing birdhouses to metal poles reduces the likelihood of climbing predators such as cats and raccoons disturbing the nest. Predator guards can also be made or purchased.

Hang your birdhouse in February in order for birds to find it before the breeding season begins. If possible, face the opening to the north or east to avoid overheating the nestlings.

Vegetation native to your area is an important factor for attracting birds to your yard. Evergreens provide shelter from inclement weather and protection from predators, as well as nesting spots. A variety of birds, including Eastern bluebirds and cardinals, are attracted to fruit-bearing plants. Trees that produce nuts will entice birds such as downy woodpeckers and blue jays.

Calling artistic birdhouses
Each September, bird enthusiasts let their imaginations soar by displaying original handmade birdhouses or ready-made birdhouses, embellished with personal touches, at The Arboretum in Lexington. Director Marcia Farris says, “The purpose of the event is two-fold: Fun—getting lots of people to join us in a creative and innovative community event, from the wide variety of birdhouse artists to the diverse crowds that come from across the state to see it at The Arboretum in Lexington, the state botanical garden of Kentucky. Fund-raising—proceeds from the auction go toward the Kentucky Children’s Garden.”

Jan Czochara, co-chair of the birdhouse committee, says artists of all backgrounds participate, from age 3 to senior citizens. She adds, “One-third of last year’s entries were by children.”

Some memorable birdhouses from past displays include: “The Little Old Bird Who Lived In a Shoe,” a creation by a polymer clay artist who used her husband’s old work boot as the base; “Woodstork,” made of five gourds and 557 wooden feathers; and “Run for the Roses,” autographed by jockey Calvin Borel and depicting scenes of him winning the 2009 Kentucky Derby on Mine That Bird.

There are three award categories in the display. Ribbons are presented for The Best Children’s Birdhouse, voted on by the birdhouse committee for participants age 10 and under, and for The Fan Favorite Birdhouse, voted on by visitors to the display. The Pat Morris Creativity Award is presented to the Most Creative Birdhouse. The winner of this award receives a bird-related book and gift card to a local store.

Entry fees for displaying birdhouses are: $10 individual, $5 child (age 10 and under), $5 nonprofit, $50 business. Keep in mind that they are displayed outdoors, so they must be weatherproof. Czochara says, “They should be ready to hang on a hook or mount on a plate with screws. The plates are approximately 2” x 4”. Birdhouses should weigh less than 10 pounds and have a base smaller than 16” x 16”.”

This year commemorates the 10th annual Birdhouse Display and Benefit Auction at The Arboretum. The event will open Labor Day weekend, running September 2-11. Entrants can either reclaim their birdhouses or donate them to the silent auction, which closes the event and will be held at the Dorotha Smith Oatts Visitor Center on Sunday, September 11, 2-4 p.m. There is no cost to see the birdhouses on display or to attend the closing reception. Farris adds, “It’s a beautiful time of year to stroll through the gardens and see the birdhouses.”

For additional information, go to The Arboretum online at

Build a bluebird box at Salato
On April 6 at 10 a.m., build a bluebird box along with others at Salato Wildlife Education Center in Frankfort.

Over the years, populations of Eastern bluebirds have been on the rise thanks to manmade nesting boxes. Salato will supply the materials for a $10 fee and help you build a bluebird nest box to take home and attract these beautiful birds.

Eastern bluebirds are cavity nesters that look for holes in dead trees or fence posts. Introduced species, such as the house sparrow or European starling, compete for the same nesting sites, reducing the Eastern bluebird’s natural nesting areas. Their vibrant, royal blue coloring and charming song offer a wonderful wildlife viewing opportunity.

Registration and pre-payment are required. Salato Wildlife Education Center is located at #1 Sportsman’s Lane (off U.S. 60, 1.5 miles west of U.S. 127 located at the headquarters of Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources), Frankfort, KY 40601.

For more information, call (800) 858-1549 or (502) 564-7863 or go online to or direct to Build a Bluebird House event link.

Rare yellow cardinals spotted in Boyle County
Read about “Rare yellow cardinals” and see a photo of one—spotted eating at a bird feeder at David and Tina Gourley’s Gravel Switch home in Boyle County, as reported on, February 9, 2011.

To read the Kentucky Living March 2011 feature that goes along with this supplement, go to Bird Retweet.

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