Location, location, location is the mantra of real estate agents and it’s mine too, as I prepare to hang a "For Sale" sign on my lawn this spring. I’m hoping potential buyers can envision the gardens and leafy street rather than the reality of dirty snow receding at a glacial pace.
I wonder if the same principle applies to birds. Are they as focused on where they choose to feather their nests? Or, after winging arduously north from their winter homes, are they just as happy to flop into the nearest tree or birdhouse, regardless of the class of neighbourhood? Experience in my garden says not.
I have two birdhouses in my yard. One, an ornamental English pub-style box, is completely unsuited to bird habitation. The entry hole is miniscule and it can’t be opened for cleaning but it swings gaily from the corner of our deck, reminding us of time spent in the U.K. The other is a rustic, church-styled birdhouse attached to an old rake hammered firmly into the garden. It meets, more or less, the standard criteria for attracting small birds.
Over the years, mating pairs of chickadees, tree swallows, and sparrows have vied for seasonal ownership of these two domains. One of the pair invariably heads for the pub-house. The location is grand — sweeping views of the garden and safety from the cat. But they are smitten by the charm and overlook the realities as they vainly try to squeeze their fat little bodies into the ridiculously small aperture.
The more practical mate heads for the roomier church, attempting to win the location battle with persistent twittering. This house-hunting carry-on can last for days. Year after year, the church house wins out over the pretty pub.
Regardless of which species wins the bidding war and owns the seasonal deed, we delight as cat hair, ribbon-like bits of dried grass and small twigs are pushed inside to furnish the nest-box. We sit back and wait for the faint peeps of fledglings, the reward of their due diligence to location, location, location.
FortWhyte Alive, the seasonal mecca for winged creatures, offers Birding and Breakfast mornings each Wednesday and Friday through May.
An early morning hike with an experienced birder is followed by breakfast and sharing of sightings. It’s a great way to start the day. Call FortWhyte Alive at 204-989-8355 to register.
Pat Kelly is a community correspondent for Whyte Ridge. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org