DEAR JOAN: Do you have any suggestions for attracting a bird to my new birdhouse?
I had a birdhouse -- different style -- up for four years and no bird ever made it her home.
My daughter made a wooden birdhouse for me for Christmas. She's a naturalist and the birdhouse was made correctly -- wood, no perch, pitched roof, round hole, side clean-out. It's painted red and yellow. There is a small hole in the back so it can be put on a post, which would put it about 6 feet above the ground.
Should the house be put in a tree instead of next to one? Would higher be better? Is red an OK color for the house or is neutral better? When in this area do small birds start nesting? I thought I'd put out some nesting material nearby. Would this help?
DEAR JEANINE: You may first want to consider what type of bird you want moving into your new house. That will influence some of your choices, but here are the basics.
Nesting birds want security, so place the birdhouse at least 6 feet off the ground in a tree or shrub, which will provide shelter from the elements and help disguise the nest's location.
The best way to entice a bird to take up residency is to make your yard as welcoming as you can with bird feeders and baths. But don't put the food and water too close to the birdhouse. Just as they don't like a lot of humans milling about, they also don't want a lot of other birds near them.
You can also put out food that is favored by so-called cavity dwelling birds. Some birds nest in the open, others in cavities such as tree hollows and birdhouses. If you have the type of food the cavity dwellers like, you increase your chances of attracting them to your yard and moving into the birdhouse.
In nature, birds try to make their nests blend with their surrounding. But painting them bright colors, you could be attracting predators. It might be dull, but stick to neutral colors. And never paint the interior of a birdhouse.
All the birds, not just those that might move into your birdhouse, will appreciate access to nest material, so definitely put some out.
Nesting season depends on the bird, but they all start getting in the mood by late winter/early spring, making now the perfect time to clean out existing houses and install new ones.
The "Twilight" saga seems to have had an impact on what we are naming our pets. Or maybe just a bunch of people like the old-fashioned name.
According to a survey by Veterinary Pet Insurance, "Bella" was the most popular name for both dogs and cats in 2012, and came in as No. 3 on the top names for birds and exotics.
The top 10 dog names of the year were Bella, Bailey, Max, Lucy, Molly, Buddy, Daisy, Maggie, Charlie and Sophie. For cats, it was Bella, Max, Chloe, Oliver, Lucy, Smokey, Shadow, Tiger, Charlie and Tigger. The top names for birds and exotics were Charlie, Buddy, Bella, Max, Angel, Baby, Coco, Rocky, Bandit and Sunny.
I'm curious to see what all of these different Bellas look like and to hear how they got their names.
If you have any type of a pet named Bella -- dog, cat, bird, iguana, pig, vampire bat -- please get in touch with me at either of the addresses listed below.
Tell me your name, why you chose Bella for your pet, and what kind of pet you have. We're looking to photograph some Bellas and their owners for a story. Deadline is Jan. 14.
Contact Joan Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.