Over the past few years, the staff at Escape Outdoors (EO) has been captivated by the presence of "urban birds" that grace downtown North Sydney. The discovery of a bird's nest during a nearby renovation project sparked curiosity and initiated research into these avian inhabitants. Questions arose: Why do these birds prefer urban environments? What species are they? And how can we further encourage a vibrant bird community in our downtown area?
In the fall of 2020, our encounter with Bobby Lewis, a local volunteer and skilled birdhouse builder, introduced us to a heartwarming initiative. Bobby generously donates his time to construct birdhouses, which are then sold at Nora's 2 Thrift Store—a social enterprise operated by the participants of Haley Street. Eager to support this cause, EO promptly placed an order for 12 birdhouses.
The response from our community was overwhelming. Not only did EO fulfill its commitment to purchase 12 birdhouses, but we also received additional support from numerous community members, enabling us to buy 12 more. As a token of appreciation for every $20 donation, a bird-shaped cocktail glass was gifted.
Thanks to the ongoing support from our community, we are thrilled to announce that EO has purchased 24 birdhouses and counting!
Downtown North Sydney's Urban Birds: European Starling and House Sparrow
Through careful research and observation, we have identified the two most common bird species in downtown North Sydney: the European Starling and House Sparrow. These birds exhibit fascinating behaviors and have unique habitat preferences.
The European Starling prefers open, grassy areas near water sources and buildings. They are often found in urban locations, such as mowed lawns and city streets, searching for insects and invertebrates. Similarly, the House Sparrow is closely associated with human settlements and buildings, commonly seen in cities, towns, suburbs, and farms. Their social nature is evident as they hop around on the ground.
While these birds are beautiful and add charm to our downtown core, they can present challenges for other resident and migratory species when it comes to nesting locations. With some help from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and their Urban Bird Project, they state that as a downtown in Nova Scotia, we could attract the following:
Black Capped Chickadees
Great Crested Flycatcher
Each type of bird is drawn to a certain type of nesting box. Some are houses with specific size entrance holes, some are shelves, while others are baskets. Therefore, we will have a variety of designs to attract different species. To encourage nesting by migratory birds and reduce competition, we will consider various control measures, including keeping some of the box entrances plugged until nesting season by the migratory birds begins and placing them in preferred locations.
Expanding Our Bird Family: Attracting New Species
With valuable insights from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Urban Bird Project, we discovered several bird species that can thrive in our downtown core, including the American Kestral, American Robin, Barn Swallow, Black Capped Chickadees, Great Crested Flycatcher, Mourning Dove, and Northern Flicker. Each species is drawn to specific types of nesting boxes, ranging from houses with size-specific entrance holes to shelves and baskets. By offering a variety of designs, we hope to attract a diverse avian population.
To support nesting by migratory birds and reduce competition, we will implement various control measures. For instance, we will keep some box entrances plugged until the nesting season for migratory birds begins, and strategically place the birdhouses in preferred locations.
The Benefits of Urban Birds: Beyond Beauty
Having birds in our area offers numerous advantages. They are natural pest controllers, helping to reduce insect populations and pollinate plants. Additionally, birds contribute to a healthier environment, benefiting plants and other species.
Moreover, the presence of birds fosters community spirit. Our community's engagement with the downtown bird's nest and our Urban Bird Project highlights how nature can unite us. We aim to inspire nature walkers and attract more bird species by installing these birdhouses, creating a calming and peaceful atmosphere in our bustling downtown.
How Can You Encourage Birds in Your Neighborhood?
If you wish to attract birds to your neighborhood, providing birdhouses is a simple and effective method. Many birds, including the European Starling and House Sparrow, prefer nesting in hidden and protected areas. Birdhouses offer them a safe space to lay eggs and raise their families. You can place suitable habitats in your backyard, local parks, and other areas to entice birds to your vicinity.
Another way to attract birds is by setting up bird feeders. Ensure that the feeders have small perches to prevent seed spillage, which could attract unwanted larger birds or rodents. Hummingbird feeders are perfect for attracting hummingbirds, orioles, and downy woodpeckers. To prepare the food, dissolve ¼ cup sugar in 1 cup hot water and let it cool—avoid using red dyes.
Attracting birds. (2017, August 01). Retrieved April 10, 2021, from https://celebrateurbanbirds.org/learn/birds/attracting-birds/
European starling life history, all about Birds, Cornell lab of ornithology. (n.d.). Retrieved April 10, 2021, from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/European_Starling/lifehistory#habitat
House Sparrow life history, all about Birds, Cornell lab of ornithology. (n.d.). Retrieved April 10, 2021, from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/House_Sparrow/lifehistory#
Providing nest materials and boxes. (2017, November 28). Retrieved April 10, 2021, from https://celebrateurbanbirds.org/learn/gardening/providing-nest-materials-and-boxes-for-birds/