put a bird in it

We bought this little birdhouse a few months back and hung it in a tree outside our kitchen window. I spotted it, of all places, at the Drugworld on Rt 59 in Nyack. It was the only one like it, and was tucked, randomly, at the end of an aisle alongside some Q-Tips and scented candles. I wasn’t on the market for a birdhouse and certainly wasn’t expecting to find one while looking for shampoo, but I pounced. It is very much in keeping with my predilection for all things… round.

Since then, I have been a very nosey neighbor. In anticipation of making some new feathered friends, I have been peeking out there while washing dishes and sometimes staring at it for long stretches. One day I even performed a lengthy stake out from our front porch. But I have seen nothing: no comings-and-goings, zero activity.

Finally, I walked up close and did a full Peeping Tom to see if I could discern any signs of habitation, perhaps some straw or remnants from a worm feast. What I saw instead were two scruffy little bugs crawling up the back wall. Squatters! They glanced back at my eyeball without even a hint of guilt. “Hey,” one said casually. The other nodded, “What’s up?” But, disappointingly, no birds or evidence there of.

I was stumped: if I were a bird, I’d take up residence in this funky hut in a heartbeat. However, I guess it wasn’t as inviting as I thought it was. I wondered, is the front door too small? Does it need air conditioning? Does the interior need to be “staged” better – perhaps a little splash of color? (After all, not everyone likes white walls as much as Rob and I.) I don’t think this qualifies as a “bird feeder,” but should we be setting up some snacks in there?

Then Rob and I visited the newest part of the High Line, the excellent park created on a set of elevated train tracks on Manhattan’s West side. Right now, they have a sculpture by Sarah Sze, a scaffolding-like structure hosting several modern bird houses.

Seeing all the birds hopping in and out of these houses so happily made me a tad jealous. Granted, Sze’s sculpture is pretty slick: the houses are straight out of Dwell for the Avian set. But I think our birdhouse is pretty snazzy as well. Maybe it’s just that there aren’t other birdhouses around ours? Maybe what we need is a community. Perhaps more birdhouses will make the tree more like an apartment complex? Surely more consumption is not the answer.

While still pondering the vacancy, we happened to visit the sculpture garden at ROCA (Rockland Center for the Arts) and saw Tom Holmes’s Birdhouse City.

We didn’t see any birds in attendance (and the XL “egg” in the Frank Lloyd Wright-ish bird dwelling at the front is actually a granite stone collected by the artist’s wife Carol 20 years ago on Cape Cod.) These houses, at least when we saw them, appeared to be empty. And yet. They are lovely. I suppose, like many things in life, the anticipation of visitors is at least half the fun of a visit.

I’ve decided this is actually yet another round of the city vs. suburbs ping pong match I’ve been playing in my head in the year since moving out here. Maybe NYC birds need those hipster sanctuaries more than the birds in the Nyack area. Possibly the birds of Rockland County already have more than enough places to call home. Or maybe there’s all kind of things going on in these little structures (think parties, twig exhibits, think worm harvesting festivals) while we’re not looking.

Whatever the case, I just wish I could catch a glimpse…pass me those binoculars, will you?

11 replies

  1. Your BH(short for bird house) is white. And, round!! How perfect.

    I am sure this spring(or sooner)a sweet bird and honey love will make a home, like their neighbors did a while back, in a cool funky house. But it may take a very special type of tweet tweet for that:-)

  2. This is so nice to look at – sorry the birds are moving in. I had one of those hollowed-out gourd birdhouses outside for 3 years with never a nest in it. I wonder if birds don’t like it if the house is swinging rather than tied down or secured in some way? I know some species prefer to be on platforms. Yeah, I bet some birdseed could drum up some interest.

  3. Good point Jen – I mean, unless I’m on a hammock or on a swing set for a temporary time, I don’t really want to be swinging around, myself…. 🙂 The one time I slept on a waterbed during a sleepover in about 1984, aka didn’t go very well (in other words, no sleep at all.)

  4. I appreciate your interest in my work. I made and sold bird houses for a living in my 20’s………. You should google bird house requirements or some such phrase….. Interior space is specific to each species…… The smallest woodland birds like sparrows and chickadees need a 4″x 4″ x4″ interior space with a 1 1/8″ hole. etc………… The birds are probably nesting in the NYC ones because they give shelter from the hawks and nesting space in the city is so sparse. It can take 2-3 seasons to get a bird in a house. And nesting season is April to the end of July… thats it. Then it’s fledge and fly. The birds will sometimes roost in the houses at night and fly at first light. You can tell if they are roosting if there are droppings. The ceramic might be to slick a surface for most birds……. they prefer unfinished wood. Anyway, there is an art to getting birds to nest in houses, placement, height, hole size etc. The ones at the center are a bit exposed in their present location. And the woods and eves of buildings provide more protection and privacy to choose from……

  5. I am not sure where you placed the birdhouse but all of the birds on our property build nests at least 10 to 12 feet off the ground. If you hang it off the side of your house or a gutter you might get a tenant or two.

  6. Neither sparrows, chickadees nor wrens have been able to pass a credit check since 2008. Down payment? Forget about it.

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