Nest Boxes: We might do this?
You might remember the Sugar Glider nest boxes we installed up in the Lurg Hills a few years back. You might be interested in nest boxes as a way to encourage more abundance and diversity of our local fauna on your property. Or you might be a secret woodworking enthusiast looking for a way to make your hobby have some environmental impact!
Either way, nest boxes and the art of nest-boxing is a highly skilled, species-specific sport. You need to have deep insight into the predator, feeding, breeding and physical attributes of your chosen beneficiary - not to mention a keen appreciation of the solar arc travel during the day and over the course of the seasons.
It also helps greatly to know the food sources of your chosen species (and what, if anything, eats them!), their spatial preferences - and a good knowledge of the points of the compass and your own abilities to juggle three things while working at potentially great heights. In fact, for nest box installation for some species, you may even be regulated by a Working at Heights certification requirement.
It was while researching how we might kick off another project that I came across the Facebook community of interest, specifically focused on nest-boxing. This group seek to share their common knowledge and success and failures across their members and their page pretty much sums up the positive attributes of social media, freely shared information and linking people of common interest everywhere, Check out their site here.
The group was started by Alice McGlashan who also maintains the companion website, nestboxtales.com. If you need inspiration, check out her post to the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria on her 2020-21 nest box season on her own 4 acre property!
You may recall we posted a blog article a short while back on the competition for old-growth hollows between sulphur-crested cockatoos and the rainbow lorikeet. The requirement here may well be, not for nest boxes for these two relatively abundant species, but for the smaller, less aggressive species of birds, that are far less able to compete as effusively for the hollows available.
Our sorties into NE Victoria in the Lurg Hills setting up nest boxes for the endangered Sugar and Squirrel Gliders also illustrate graphically the requirement for suitable trees and hollows, not only for accommodation, but for hidy-holes as they migrate around a paddock, looking for food and a mate. And we had to be careful about selecting the trees only a certain maximum distance apart, since these little critters only glide, not fly - and forcing them to run across the ground to reach a nest box is not at all conducive to their longevity!
These examples illustrate both the construction and placement of the nest boxes is very species-specific and thus members looking to start creating their own collection would be well advised to do considerable research into their chosen specie's preference in these areas - and join a group like the Nest Box Tales group above - and tap into the considerable expertise and experience that these groups have amassed.
Remember, a badly targeted design or placement can lead to detrimental effects, ranging from annoying unwanted occupations (bee squatters are a particular problem in some designs) through to increased predation or the complete loss in your locality of the group you were trying to help.
✓ Nest Box Tales Facebook site and companion web site
✓ Birds in Backyards section of the Birdlife Australia website
✓ DELWP Fact sheet for nest boxes for Aussie arboreals
✓ ARI web page on use of nest boxes in Victoria (there's over 10,000 in existence)
✓ Check out the references section of this 2009 CSIRO research paper (it costs $35 to buy the report) for more sources of info
✓ Gio's Nestboxing Program from the Port Phillip Ecocentre (contains some excellent material on how to run a nest box programme). And it contains a great little plan for microbat tubes, for those of you keen to find a way to entice them out of your rooves!
Stay tuned and give us feedback if this is the type of activity you want to be involved in with the VMLCG!
Photo credit: Alice McGlashan 2020