Backyard Bird's Winter Shelter

On Jan 15th, I shared with you the first key factor to a bird’s winter survival – food- and as promised, I am now sharing the second key factor to a bird’s winter survival – a backyard bird’s winter shelter.
In view of the recent winter storms mentioned briefly in the Jan 15th post, many beginning bird watchers now wonder where birds go to keep warm in winter. I imagine that such a concern has become quite common by now.
Among the many birds to mention, I would like to share eight birds that caught my interest.
First, I will share with you a bird’s winter shelter for 5 common backyard birds, and then I will share a bird’s winter shelter for three wild birds.

Common backyard bird’s winter shelter:

  • Bluebirds

Although Bluebirds are cavity nesters, they are known for being highly adapted to roost boxes. They are also known for their communal roosting, where they escape the cold weather by huddling tightly together in large numbers to share their body heat.

  • Chickadees
  • Titmice
  • Woodpeckers
  • Nuthatches

Although the above four common backyard birds and the Bluebird both share the instinct of cavity nesting, Bluebirds have been adapted to roost boxes over a longer period of time.
Whereas, Chickadees, titmice, Woodpeckers, and Nuthatches have relied on dead tree cavities through winter storms. For that instinctive reason, it is of more recent years that these four backyard birds have taken note of roost boxes.
In fact, bird experts have observed such backyard bird species adapting to roost boxes. And through careful observation, they have discovered the individual liking of these species.
So, if you were to build a roost box to their liking, they would soon adapt to your accommodations!

How can you build a roost box to their liking?

Below is a helpful chart to the backyard bird species mentioned above:

Build your own winter roost box to the
liking of the following backyard birds.
I suggest rough Red Cedar for all:

Dimensions Entrance Location
and Height
Color Species
Bluebirds 5″x5″x8″h 1-1/2″ centered above floor 5-10″
high sunny open areas
earth tones
to face a field
4″x4″x8″h 4-10″high 5″-10″
high sunny open areas
earth tones
to roost in or near woods
Chickadees 5″x5″ base
or   4″x4″x8″h

1-1/8″ hole centered
6″above floor
high sunny open areas
earth tones
in small tree thicket
Nuthatches 4″x4″x10″h
1-1/4″ hole centered
7 1/2″ above  floor
high on tree trunk
color or cover
with bark
to live in or near woods
4″x4″10″h 1-1/4″
hole centered
7+1/2″ above floor
on tree trunk
of  natural tree cavity
add 1″ or 2″ wood chips or saw dust
Northern Flicker 7″x7″x18″h

hole centered 14″ above floor
8-20″high light
earth tones
provide 1″ or 2″ dry wood chips or saw dust inside

6″x6″x15″h 2″ hole centered
6-8″above floor
high on post or tree trunk
of natural tree cavity
cover bottom with 1″ or 2″ or saw dust or dry wood chips
Now that you are familiar with some common backyard birds, let us consider three wild birds noteworthy because of the distinctive ways they have adapted to survive harsh winter weather.

Wild bird’s winter shelter:

  • Rosy Finches

Rosy Finches depend upon rock outcroppings and cliff crevices as nesting and roosting sites. In winter, they use the spaces between rock outcroppings as well cliff crevices, where they wedge themselves to escape the cold winds. Though Rosy Finches generally make their own roosting nest, at times they use nests built and used by Cliff Swallows in nesting season.

  • Bobwhites

Although a solitary bird by warmer months, Bobwhites congregate in shrubby thickets on the ground and huddle tightly together during winter weather to conserve body heat. As they keep warm, they lay facing outside the shelter, ready to escape from any coming predators.

  • Ruffed Grouse

To protect themselves from unbearable winter temperatures, Ruffed Grouse rely on snow banks to keep them warm. If the snow depth is ideal, the grouse will burrow into it, which interestingly keeps them 20-30 degrees warmer than the air temperature. Here, they will roost until the winter storm passes.
By now, you know the two key factors that are essential to a bird’s winter survival:

  • backyard bird’s food
  • backyard bird’s winter shelter

I hope you appreciate that both backyard birds and wild birds do have shelter to keep them warm through winter storms.
The backyard birds that you so enjoy can be helped through harsh winter weather by such accommodations as roost boxes.
Whereas, the wild birds that we learn about, survive – not so much by mans efforts – but that of their own instinct.
– Craig Curtis

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