Maine Natural History Observatory

Censusing and Monitoring the Species and Habitats of Coastal Maine

Nest Box Monitoring

Volunteer to Monitor a Nest Box in 2020!

Nest Boxes in Maine

Each spring, Maine experiences an influx of hundreds of migratory breeding birds, many of whom utilize cavities for nesting sites. Our state, with its rich mosaic of different habitat types, provides suitable breeding grounds for a variety of cavity-nesting species ranging from songbirds to raptors to waterfowl. Cavities include naturally-occurring sites such as the chambers drilled out by woodpeckers or hollows formed in trees after a branch breaks. Suitable sites also include man-made nest boxes designed to meet the requirements of a specific species when installed in appropriate habitat. These nest boxes present a unique opportunity for observers to gather detailed information about the breeding status of these birds while providing nesting opportunities where sites may be limited.

Although many cavity-nesting species are currently increasing in number, some species such as the American Kestrel, Tree Swallow, and Purple Martin are experiencing declines in Maine. Habitat destruction and competition from invasive species like the European Starling and House Sparrow for suitable nest sites pose threats to cavity-nesting species. All the while, climate change threatens to exacerbate this issue of nest cavity competition by favoring the aggressive invasive species, which remain on or near their breeding grounds year-round, while disadvantaging non-resident individuals that migrate to reach their breeding grounds.

Year in Review: 2019

Maine Natural History Observatory staff and volunteers met in early Spring to construct nest boxes designed specifically to accommodate three native bird species: American Kestrel, Eastern Bluebird, and Northern Saw-whet Owl.  Courtesy of a grant from the North American Bluebird Society and materials donated by Hammond Lumber, 59 nest boxes were made available without cost to volunteers throughout the state.  An additional 7 nest boxes were monitored by volunteers who either already owned or built their own boxes.  Species that were confirmed breeding in nest boxes include American Kestrel, Eastern Bluebird, Black-capped-Chickadee, Tree Swallow, and House Wren.

Want to Get Involved?

We are seeking volunteers to deploy and monitor nest boxes throughout Maine during the 2020 field season.  A number of pre-built nest boxes will be available for volunteers on a first-come-first-serve basis. Contact Logan Parker (logan@hereinthewild.com), Maine Natural History Observatory Assistant Ecologist, to get on the waiting list. 
In the handbooks below, there are plans for simple nest boxes which can be built by anyone with rudimentary carpentry skills, and can be modified to suit the wood you have available.  Be prepared that your first nest boxes may be ignored by the birds at first. Give the birds some time to find your box before considering moving it to a new location. 

This project will help to gather valuable information about the status of Maine’s cavity nesting birds, confirm breeding for elusive species (such as owls), and to increase availability of suitable nesting sites for these native speciesThank you!

Resources

Click the links below to view the nest box monitoring data sheet and handbooks:

 

 

 

Photo credits

American Kestrel: Logan Parker

Constructing nest boxes: Logan Parker

Eastern Bluebird nestlings: Perry Moore