BIRDS, LIKE PEOPLE, have specific tastes when it comes to home.
The size of the box, the nest hole diameter B and the habitat are the three major factors to consider when making your own birdhouse, according to Charles Williams, executive director of the National Audubon Society. "If your nest is near water, it will attract certain birds, inland will attract others."
Cavity nests, says Williams, will attract few birds. Cardinals, he points out, are shrub-nesting birds, and will not be enticed into a birdhouse -- no matter how fancy.
"You can still get the cardinal to come to your yard by planting the shrubs it usually nests in almost any seed-bearing full shrubbery and supplying it with the appropriate seed sunflower ," Williams says.
The bluebird is one bird that is a cavity-nesting bird. It is also native to the Washington area. At present, however, the bluebird can only be found around the Beltway -- Laurel, Potomac, Fairfax -- not in urban Washington, says Mary Janetatos, president of the Bluebird Society.
According to Janetatos, "The bluebird is in desperate need of human help. Nesting boxes need to be set out and monitored for the bluebird, or sparrows and starlings archenemies of the bluebird will take over the nests."
Bluebirds can only live in open-air nests, while sparrows and starlings can live in either open-air or nests in the woods. Unfortunately, the sparrow and the starling are more aggressive than the bluebirds, so when the sparrow or starling spot a nesting box they often move in and enforce their squatters rights against the bluebird, says Janetatos.
One way to keep a nesting box just for the bluebird is to make the entrance hole no larger than 1 1/2 inches -- the other birds are larger. There is no seed you can put out to attract bluebirds, since their bills are too delicate to crack seeds -- they eat only berries. Bluebirds will only be attracted by a nesting box beginning late winter or early spring. Bird Feeders
Bird feeders, says Williams, can be made from milk cartons, scrap lumber and plastic jugs (Clorox bottles).
"The problem people have is not making the feeder but learning how to use them," stresses Williams. "The kinds of seed are important. It not only determines what kind of bird will visit your yard, but how well that bird is being fed."
"It's also imperative to have a baffle to keep out the squirrels. A good baffle that we recommend is to hook up an old 33-rpm record on the wire above the feeder. Squirrels can't climb around it."
The Massachusetts chapter of the Audubon Society suggests using a coconut cut in half, two wooden or plastic salad bowls or two rectangles of masonite. String them together one above the other and hang from a tree limb.
BIRDS AND SEEDS
American goldfinch: hulled sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, and oil-type sunflower seeds.
Brown-headed cowbird: white proso millet, red proso millet, German millet and canary seed.
Cardinal: sunflower seeds of all types.
Carolina chickadee: oil-type sunflower seeds.
Dark-eyed junco: red proso, white prosomillet, canary seeds and fine-cracked corn.
Common grackle: hulled sunflower seeds and cracked corn.
Evening grosbeak: sunflower seeds of all types.
House finch: oil-type sunflower seeds.
House sparrow: white proso millet and most other seeds except flax and rape.
Mourning dove: oil-type sunflower seeds, white proso millet, thistle, wheat, buckwheat, milo, canary seed, hulled oats and cracked corn.
Purple finch: sunflower seeds of all types.
Red-bellied woodpecker: black-striped sunflower seeds.
Song sparrow: white and red proso millet and oil-type sunflower seeds.
Tufted titmouse: peanut kernels and oil-type sunflower seeds.
White-crowned sparrow: oil-type and black-striped sunflower seeds, white and red proso millet. (Infrequent visitor to feeders.)
White-throated sparrow: All sunflower seeds, white proso millet and peanut kernels.
Copies of the Geis report, "Relative Attractiveness of Different Foods at Wild Bird Feeders" (Report 233), are available free from the Publications Unit, Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Interior, Washington, D.C. 20240.
* Naturalist Leon Nawojchik will offer a slide lecture on winter feeding and identification of common local birds Wednesday, Oct. 14, 10 a.m.-noon and again next Sunday, Oct. 18, 10 a.m.-noon. The program, which will take place at Riverbend Nature Center in Great Falls, is sponsored by the Fairfax County Park Authority. Call 759-3211.
* The Raptor Society of Metropolitan Washington will hold a Bird Seed Savings Day sale -- deadline for orders is Monday, Oct. 26. The sale, sponsored by the Raptor Society and the Fairfax County Park Authority, will make high quality bird seed available at competitive prices. Pick-up days are Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 6 and 7 at either Huntley Meadow Park in Hybla Valley or Frying Pan Park in Herndon. Call 759-3211 or 768-2525.