Archive for the 'Nest Boxes' Category

The Eastern Bluebird of Happiness

Friday, September 28th, 2018

Eastern Bluebird raising a family in a nest box.

This is Passport to Texas

Henry David Thoreau once wrote that “the bluebird is the bird with the sky on his back.”

While they carry the blue sky on their backs, their chests and under their chin are reddish orange, while their bellies are a beautiful soft white.

The Eastern Bluebird is among three species of bluebirds found in Texas. During the past few decades, the Eastern bluebird’s populations have been declining in some areas, due in part to an alteration of habitat. Habitat alteration isn’t the only threat to the bluebird of happiness: the prevalence of European Starlings and house sparrows also play a part in its decline.

The non-native starling and sparrow were introduced to North America in the 19th Century. Like the Eastern bluebird, they are both cavity nesters. Unlike the bluebird, they are bullies. They’ll takeover a cavity already inhabited by a bluebird (or other cavity nesters)… and take no prisoners.

Something you can do is to build a bluebird nest box and put it up in your yard. You will need to monitor it, though, to ensure that neither a European Starling nor house sparrow take up residence.

Find a link to plans for making your own bluebird nest box at
For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

TPW TV – West Texas Wetland

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

Curved Bill Thrasher at Christmas Mountains Oasis

This is Passport to Texas

In a region best known for its rugged terrain and dry desert ecology, avid birders, Carolyn Ohl-Johnson and her late husband Sherwood, created something magical in the Christmas Mountains of West Texas.

It’s a refuge for birds, butterflies.

Started in the 1990s, the couple developed ways to capture water that fell or flowed on their property.

And I told him how we could put in some diversion dams, and he just hopped right on that without greasing his equipment the same day! And so we started out with one tank that wasn’t nearly big enough.

So began a lifelong passion to establish an oasis in the middle of the desert to draw birds to her West Texas home. The Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS features Carolyn’s oasis on this week’s show.

I can be sitting here, just looking at the same old stuff, and bet money that nothing interesting’s gonna come along. And there, all of a sudden, oh my gosh, there’s a lifer! But it won’t happen if I’m not sitting here looking, so what do you do! You sure don’t get much work done, that’s for sure.

Tune into the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS through August fourth to see not only Carolyn’s oasis, but another lush wetland project in West Texas. Check your local listings.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Purple Martins

Thursday, January 7th, 2016
Various Purple Martin Houses.

Various Purple Martin Houses.

This is Passport to Texas

Purple Martins begin to travel across Texas this month, stopping to nest in birdhouses designed for them. They rely on our help because they’ve adapted to manmade “nest boxes” originally constructed from gourds by Native Americans.

Yet, opinions vary about how this relationship between bird and man began. Some believe native people placed gourds on the ends of their teepee poles to intentionally attract the purple martins. The birds provided insect control, and chased off creatures that tried to eat game left out to dry by the hunters.

Other martin enthusiasts believe the relationship was accidental. Native Americans hung gourds high off the ground to prevent rotting, and rodents from chewing holes in them. The clever rodents found and chewed holes in the gourds, just the same.

The purple martins, while hunting for a nesting cavity spotted openings in the gourds, and nested inside them. Living close to man meant fewer predators—and they did eat pesky insects. Their symbiotic relationship allegedly evolved from there.

Whatever the truth, today’s purple martin houses are either “gourd-type” single-family dwellings made from polyethylene, or “house-type” multi-family units made out of aluminum, or wood. And they remain a great bird to have around the house.

That’s out show… For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Avoiding Woodpecker Damage

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015
Redbellied Woodpecker

Redbellied Woodpecker

This is Passport to Texas

As a rule, woodpeckers excavate cavities in dead trees, called snags, which they then live in. The exception to the rule occurs when in their home building zeal, they mistake dark colored house siding, for a snag. When they do—homeowners have problems.

And it looks like cannon balls have been shot through the house. Maybe two or three; and we’ve seen some with fifteen, sixteen holes.

Cliff Shackelford is a non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. He says woodpecker damage occurs most often in urban and suburban areas where homeowners removed dead wood from their property.

What we recommend people to do with problems with woodpeckers is to put a nest box. If you’re familiar with a bluebird box, it’s just a larger version of that custom made for woodpeckers.

Visit for a link to information and free blueprints to make your own woodpecker nest box.

People can build this in a couple of hours on the weekend, and put it up on the side of the house, and in all cases that we’ve done this – it’s worked. And the woodpecker stops chiseling on the home, and goes to this next box, and is very content.

That’s our show for today… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.


Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

  • Floor – 6 inches by 6 inches
  • Depth – 12 inches
  • Entrance height above floor – 10 inches
  • Entrance diameter – 2 inches
  • Recommended height above ground – 10 to 20 feet


Northern Flicker
Northern Flicker
Photo by Terry Spivey, USDA Forest Service


Northern Flicker

  • Floor – 7 inches by 7 inches
  • Depth – 16 to 18 inches
  • Entrance height above floor – 14 to 16 inches
  • Entrance diameter – 2½ inches
  • Recommended height above ground – 6 to 20 feet



The Problem with Woodpeckers

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

This is Passport to Texas

If you live in East Texas, and have noticed strange holes in the wood siding of your home… don’t call the police; call an ornithologist.

08—There are fifteen species of woodpeckers in Texas, eight of which are in the eastern third of Texas. And that’s where we get most of our calls of woodpecker damage.

Non-game ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford, says the pileated and red bellied woodpeckers are among the culprits inflicting the damage to these homes.

15—What happens a lot of time is that they see these houses that might be painted brown, they might have cedar siding, and this is very attractive to the birds to try to excavate a cavity. So, they’re not looking for food when they’re doing this; they’re looking to make a cavity to call home.

The pileated woodpecker, about the size of a crow, can excavate holes as big as a man’s fist — and not just in the outside walls of your home, either.

11—That’s right. We’ve documented pileateds going through into the sheetrock and into the room of the house. Of course, they’re very lost when they do that, they quickly go out. They’re not looking to make a mess of the house.

Keeping woodpeckers from damaging your home…that’s tomorrow.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.