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Nest Box Residents : Out With The Old, In With the New

3-25-16  mouse nest in bluebird box by Jim LafleyDSC00362 (2)In order to prevent disease or the passing on of parasites, it is a good idea to clean out nest boxes after they’ve been occupied.  In the fall, after the last brood of eastern bluebirds or tree swallows has flown the coop, many nest box owners often clean them out in preparation for the next summer’s residents, but some wait until spring.  This habit of waiting provides white-footed and deer mice (and occasionally flying squirrels) with a ready-made winter shelter and/or larder.

Feathers incorporated into the pictured grass nest indicate that tree swallows once occupied this nest box.  After the last of the avian nestlings had fledged, mice moved into the box.  After constructing a roof over the nest, the mice succeeded in renovating the former bird nursery into a winter mouse house.  The remaining space inside the box served as a larder for nearby high-bush cranberries.

Unfortunately for the mice, but fortunately for the swallows or bluebirds that will reside here this summer, the responsible nest box owner dutifully cleaned out the nest box this spring, in accordance with avian-mammalian timeshare policies.  (Thanks to Jim Lafley for the use of his photo.)

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5 responses

  1. In cleaning out my boxes earlier this March, I disturbed two white-footed mice who were quite surprised to see me! I gave them another week, but then cleaned house just in time for a pair of bluebirds to stop by and inspect the time share!

    March 25, 2016 at 7:24 am

  2. Dan

    I have usually cleaned our boxes in the fall. We have had Bluebirds inspecting the boxes for several weeks now – so I am glad I did it in the fall.

    March 25, 2016 at 8:28 am

  3. Great photo!

    March 25, 2016 at 6:16 pm

  4. Guy Stoye

    I’ve cleaned the birdhouses at both seasons. Last two years I’ve done it in the fall. Used to scorch them out with propane torch to kill fleas and lice or mites. I no longer do this because of the little spiders which are almost always in there and mostly, are killed in the flames. I believe they do no harm to the birds but, conversely, help control the insect vermin within.

    March 25, 2016 at 7:37 pm

  5. I put food grade diatomaceous earth in the nest boxes for lice and other parasites that I wish to control, works great.

    March 31, 2016 at 1:36 pm

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