Un­usual lodgers found in your gar­den nest boxes

Accrington Observer - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD The Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop sean.wood @talk21.com

AT the time of year when the RSPB is urg­ing peo­ple to put up nest boxes ready for next spring, a sur­pris­ing num­ber of un­usual shared oc­cu­pan­cies have come to light.

The char­ity’s wildlife en­quiries team has been en­cour­ag­ing callers to clean out ex­ist­ing nest boxes and to put new ones in po­si­tion so they are in place for when birds start to ‘recce’ pos­si­ble nest sites in the spring.

Some birds will start to roost in them in the next few weeks as the weather turns colder too.

And the num­ber of ex­tra­or­di­nary re­ports of some species dou­bling up in nest-boxes in re­cent years has come as quite a sur­prise.

Barn owl nest boxes seem to at­tract the most un­usual ten­ants, with re­ports of the gen­er­ous bird of prey shar­ing their nest boxes with birds like jack­daws, kestrels and stock doves.

Many birds are fu­ri­ously ter­ri­to­rial, es­pe­cially when rais­ing their young. And callers have re­ported that some birds shar­ing a home are con­stantly ha­rassed when try­ing to get into their house-share, mak­ing it even more bizarre that they should per­sist.

Other birds that have been spot­ted nest­shar­ing are blue tits and great tits and both of these species have been seen shar­ing with pied fly­catch­ers too.

Ex­perts be­lieve one rea­son for the shared oc­cu­pan­cies could in­clude mul­ti­ple cav­i­ties in some nest boxes, lead­ing to the birds fledg­ing from one cav­ity and re­turn­ing to roost in the ‘wrong hole’ that is al­ready oc­cu­pied.

An­other rea­son could be be­cause they have un­wit­tingly laid their eggs in the ac­tive nest of an­other species.

There may also be a lack of nest­ing sites in some ar­eas.

Many larger birds that nest in holes in trees or in older, undis­turbed build­ings are hav­ing dif­fi­culty find­ing suit­able nest­ing sites, as build­ings are knocked down or con­verted.

Richard James, RSPB wildlife ad­viser says: “Now is a great time to put up new nest boxes or give old ones a clean ready for the next round of breed­ing in spring.

“Long be­fore eggs are ac­tu­ally laid and chicks hatched, the adult birds will start to scope out pos­si­ble nest sites.

“Its great to hear that peo­ple are get­ting so ex­cited about un­usual lodgers and although its quite un­usual, it just goes to show you never know quite what you might find in your nest box.

“You could be pro­vid­ing a home for all sorts of strange house guests!”

If you dis­cover that you have two species shar­ing a box, you should put up an­other box else­where in the gar­den for next year.

Both species might want to breed in the area again the fol­low­ing year, so adding an­other box will en­sure they have their own space.

Dif­fer­ent species have dif­fer­ent nest­ing re­quire­ments, but the gen­eral rule of thumb is to po­si­tion a nest box so it isn’t easy for preda­tors to get in, and try and face it away from strong sun­light and pre­vail­ing winds.

● A beau­ti­ful barn owl caught on cam­era by the RSPB

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