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Open vs. Cavity Nesters

Our favorite songbirds can be open nesters or cavity nesters. Open nesters build or weave nests out in the open in cattails, bushes, trees or on top of ledges. Cavity nesters use a bird house/nest box or hole in a tree to raise their young.

  • Open nesters include birds like: Northern Orioles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Northern Cardinals, American Goldfinches and Blue Jays.
  • Cavity nesters include House Wrens, Black-capped chickadees, Eastern Bluebirds, Purple Martins, nuthatches, Tree Swallows and woodpeckers.

You can assist open nesters by leaving V-shaped branches when trimming trees and shrubs. Plant arborvitaes, yews and other evergreens to provide year round cover and spring nesting sites. Providing nesting material like The Best Nest Builder will assist goldfinches with nest building. Place human and pet hair along with moss and grasses in a suet feeder. Hang the suet feeder in a bush or tree in the regularly used flyways to and from feeders and bird baths. CAUTION: Do not use dryer lint as it hardens when wet and will not wick water away from the nestlings.

The competition for natural cavities is fierce between cavity nesters. You can help by providing bird houses for wrens and chickadees. They are the most likely to use backyard bird houses. Hanging a bird house from a shepherds hook with a baffle on the pole to prevent predation is a best practice. Clean out the bird house between nestings. House wrens will raise two broods a year and will reuse the house if you clean it out. See our Nesting Notes for more information.

Chickadee house

Cedar chickadee house

Wren House

Natural cedar wren house

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