Bird (and Bat etc.)-friendly Structures

We humans have a mania for building.  Until we came along, the only creature that built things on a scale big enough to make a difference worth mentioning in the landscape, either visually or ecologically, was, of course, the beaver.  But, even though beaver dams did have quite far-reaching (positive!) effects* this work was scarcely an order of magnitude beyond the usual run of muskrat lodges, woodrat nests, and the like.  The kinds of changes we humans have wrought on the world and its inhabitants as a result of our building-mania are to beaver dams as A-bombs are to firecrackers.

 *Unlike the beaver dams, unfortunately, not all of our building compulsions have such unqualifiedly positive side effects.

Animal Constructions

Burrowing—mima mounds—keystone species often burrowers (ground squirrel, gopher tortoise, gophers! And burrowers of wood—woodpeckers; and burrowers into banks—kingfishers, etc.  All of these are building homes, for themselves and (unwittingly) for others.

Nest-builders, from hummingbird to eagle to muskrat and beaver and woodrat—also are making homes for their neighbors as well as themselves, at least the larger builders with bulky nests.  These too are often keystone species.

And not to forget the “masons”, from potter wasp to swallow to . . . the kings and queens of all masons, the tropical termites, whose meticulously, painstakingly assembled spires and castles rise up to ?? feet, dominating the landscape in many a tropical savanna, and again providing air-conditioned homes for a plethora of guests (snake, bird, mammal . . . ).

And yet, all of the works of these master builders, with the skill of millions of years behind them, are negligible in comparison to the collection of stuff we upstarts have already decorated our poor mother earth with.

A mixed bag, to be sure: the best of it does credit to our more inspired good taste and imagination; the majority of it, well . . .

Unlike beavers, fortunately or not, our construction efforts are not limited to two or three time-tested formulae (dam, ??, burrow); instead we’ve gone off on a thousand different experimental tangents, and no end is in sight.

But, exactly like our more humble non-human teachers and forebears in the construction biz, we humans—the keystone species of all keystone species—in building all manner of structures for our own comfort and convenience and entertainment have unknowingly made homes for any number of other creatures.

The list could go on and on.  [Give some e.g.’s of birds and other creatures making use of our bridges and houses and skyscrapers and towers and poles and telephone wires and riprap and walls and . . . ]

Just about everything we build is comparable to some naturally-occurring feature of the landscape, and so can be put to the same use by adaptable creatures—after all, they couldn’t care less if their opportunities were made by nature or by people (if there is a difference, which to judge from—there may well not be).  There really isn’t that much difference between a snag and a telephone pole or between a cliff and a skyscraper, or a barn and a cave . . . [find that more-or-less complete list of analogs I made long ago and use it.]  Even an ordinary house can and often does have an extraordinary range of opportunities for “wildlife” to use [use concrete example from my own house]: eaves to roost and nest under, vents to hide in, dry places for mud-dowsers to nest in [don’t be prejudiced against insects!], crevices for bats, high spots for lookouts.

With some imagination, you can amplify and enhance your houses.

So, some tips.  Most people think only of birdhouses, but let’s get creative and broaden our scope.

Poles (tall as possible) for lookout perches, or granaries, or attaching bird boxes to, etc.

“Bat boards” nailed under eaves.

Crash-proof your windows [how?]

Grow dense vines up walls or on arbors (arbors are a wonderful feature of civilized life—or the Good Life, but lately almost forgotten [e.g. of grandparents’ honeysuckle arbor, also the ubiquitous, de-rigueur grape arbors, and wisteria, and of course rose . . .].