I want to put some birdhouses around my house to help protect my fruittrees from pests. What types of birds should I try to attract in Western Missouri? My main pests are Japanese Beetles, codling moths, and plum curculio.
Having various sizes of woody plants for them to build their own homes in can go a long way to attracting native birds. Every year we find several nests in shrubs in our yard. Most of our birds seem to prefer mid to low branches rather than high trees.
Keeping fresh water available can be just as important. If you don't have some kind of water feature near your fruit trees it might be worth maintaining a bird bath near the trees would attract both birds during the day and bats at night. Damaged serving dishes can get a second life this way. Settling them near the ground makes them accessible to other critters like lizards and toads to give you even more helpers. Just be sure you have a plan for how to avoid mosquitoes.
I do have a couple of anecdotes concerning how effective bats actually are. One story is spending all night fishing on a fresh water pier under a light. Bats kept dipping and diving in the air around me but I never saw so much as one mosquito or moth. They were that effective at hunting. In comparison there was the year of record cricket numbers. There were so many that the bats never had to leave the caves. Without their regular hunting, walking outside each night you would be pelted with insects. The moths made it look like a blizzard and walking sounded like playing with bubble wrap.
Bats have very specific needs for both housing and location. Despite the tendency to simply nail a house up in a tree, most bats prefer a house located in full sun like the top of a cliff or a dead tree with no leaves. Pole mounting or against a high wall can simulate this. On top of that, you may need some patience. Even with a great house in a good spot it can take more than a year to attract a colony. You can probably tell I think a bat house is a great thing.
Oh, I forgot to add, you can get a jump in next year's population by feeding the birds in winter. It will help keep the year round residents in your yard and encourage them to raise their young nearby.
Casie Becker wrote:Oh, I forgot to add, you can get a jump in next year's population by feeding the birds in winter. It will help keep the year round residents in your yard and encourage them to raise their young nearby.
I would add to this: even specialist seed eating birds, like finches, still mainly feed insects to their dependent young. So yes, putting out seed feeders in winter will help with insect control come spring and summer.
You might also consider putting up perches. Birds may sit on them, and flit out to catch insects. At my place, a perch can be something as simple as a stick that is about 3 feet taller than nearby vegetation. Kingbirds love them. Flycatchers might use them in other locations.
After we had some brick repairs on our old house chimney we were advised to get a piece of marble to set on top to close the top (held up by a brick at each corner). The chimney has been unused since the 30’s except to vent a space heater in the kitchen. One late spring I heard noises coming from where the stove pipe enters the chimney and figured out the chimney had a flock of chimney swifts in residence. Reading up we found that chimney swifts have increasing difficulty finding appropriate chimneys to nest in and some people are even building chimneys for the sole purpose of hosting these birds. So we decided to not cap the chimney and leave it open for the birds. Hoping to setup a camera one day to allow us to monitor the birds. We also have an old barn that the bats like and the house has eaves and overhangs that the swallows like to nest in each year.
The other thing we did was selectively logging our acreage, opening up old trails and clearings and that has encouraged the birds, at least it appears so.