WBS Wimberley Birding Society

Tree Branch
Bluebird House
Designed by Frank A. Zuern

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On March 2, 2003 WBS hosted a special presentation from Kay Charter, a noted author-birder-educator from Michigan. She is currently executive director of a non-profit organization, Saving Birds Thru Habitat, which educates people of all ages on the value of native birds and their diverse habitat requirements.

The design of the Tree Branch Bluebird House, reproduced here with permission and described in Charter's book For the Love of Birds*, protects bluebird nestlings against predators and overheating.

Bluebird house
Assembly Instructions:
  • Cut pieces of 3/4" cedar (rough one side, planed smooth on the other) as indicated on the Cutting Plan. Drill 1/2" diameter vent and drain holes: 10 holes along the front/top of sides; 10 holes along the back/top of sides; 12 holes along the front part of floor; and 4 holes under the back nest area of the floor. Sand rough edges.
  • Front entry hole should be 1-1/2" in diameter and 1-1/2" deep. To get the 1-1/2" depth cut two pieces of 3/4" cedar and nail together. Drill 1-1/2" diameter entry hole. Centerpoint of entry hole is 3-1/2" from bottom.
  • Assemble sides, bottom, and front with 6d galvanized nails. Predrill all nail holes so the wood does not split. Leave 1/2" above front piece for circulation. Sides and ends overlap the bottom. Sand rough edges of nest entry. Leave 1/4" to 1/2" air space between bottom board and front entrance boards.
  • Install hinged baffle on inside floor, 4-1/2" to 5" from back of box. Hinge allows the baffle to fold down toward the back for clean out from the rear.
  • Attach top with 1-1/2" galvanized deck screws. Predrill holes for screws. Leave 2" overhang at back and 3" overhang at front.
  • Attach back with hinge on the underside of the box so the back can swing out for cleaning. There should be a 1/4 " space between back and top of box for circulation. Hold in place with a nail inserted loosely from the side; leave top half of nail exposed so you can remove it for cleanout.
  • Install on 4" x 4" post with Mounting Board. Predrill nail holes. L-brackets can be used for added support.
Hints from Author Kay Charter:
  • Placing several strands of pine needles or long dried grass (not mower clippings) behind the baffle will encourage the hen to build her nest there.
  • Trap English sparrows and destroy their nests. Like starlings, English sparrows are an introduced species, and they compete with bluebirds for nest sites and will kill hens, chicks, and eggs.
  • Once a pair has selected your nest box, do not open it or approach it. This unique design will protect your nesting bluebirds (and tree swallows) not only from predators, but from nest parasitism by blow flies. Mr. Zuern, designer of the Tree Branch Bluebird House, has found that the circulating air prevents development of these parasites.
  • Mr. Zuern also reports that one of the sides may be hinged for a door in lieu of a back cleanout entry. The author does not support this style as it lessens the structural integrity of the design. However the side opening style may be desired by bluebirders reluctant to run their hand inside the box for cleanout.
  • The author recommends cleaning out nest boxes late in summer, after all nest activity.
  • Nailing a 6" to 8" wide strip of flashing around the supporting post will prevent mice from using boxes during the winter. Another mounting option that discourages predators includes putting the box on a metal fencepost with a 4-foot section of PVC pipe or drainspout slid over the top of the post so that it rests on the ground.

Bluebird house

Cutting Plan for Tree Branch Bluebird Box Bluebird house

Materials List:
(suggest 3/4"-thick cedar: rough side out, smooth side in)
Roof: 7-1/2" X 23"
2 sides: 5-1/2"x 18"
Floor: 3-1/2"x 15-1/4"
Front: 3-1/2 " x 5" x 1-1/2" thick (2 pieces )
Back: 3-1/2"x5-1/4"
Predator baffle: 3-3/8"W x 3"H
Mountingboard: 3-1/2"x 18"

Supplies List:
16- 6d galv. nails to fasten sides, front
6-1-1/2" deck screws to fasten top
1-2" T-hinge with screws for baffle
1-3" T-hinge with screws for back door
5-2-1/2" deck screws to fasten mounting board to post
2-L-braces for mounting post (optional)

*For the Love of Birds (ISBN 0-9700917-1-0, $24.95 hardcover) by Kay Charter with illustrations by Thomas W. Ford is published by Crofton Creek Press, 2303 Gregg Road SW, South Boardman, MI 49680; Phone: 231-369-2325; Fax: 231-369-4382; E-mail: croftoncreek@traverse.net

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wimbirds.org/bluebirdbox.html (Last modified Mar-03-03)