Monday, January 27, 2014

Volunteers Fashion Nest Boxes at Tucson Audubon's Mason Center

Kendall Kroesen, Urban Program Manager

Linda Matson and Bill Sievers assemble a nest box
Saturday twelve volunteers put together nest boxes for American Kestrels. This is part of our nest box pilot program, a new initiative of Tucson Audubon's Urban Program.

We're putting out about 40 experimental nests this spring designed for American Kestrels and Ash-throated Flycatchers. The kestrel box also will work for Western Screech-Owl and the ash-throated box probably will work for Brown-crested Flycatchers. We want to do a pilot program to see if we can make nest boxes successful here, as they have been in other parts of the country.

Paul Winnik and Laurie Neidich  finish a box!
We will also put out some gourds with small holes to see if Lucy's Warblers will nest in them. We have heard from two people that had success with Lucy's Warblers nesting in gourds or gourd-like objects. Next year I plan to grow dipper gourds in order to make more experimental nests.

The conventional wisdom is that nest boxes won't work here because they get too hot. But we now know of several successful Western Screech-Owl boxes, and we have heard of successes with the kestrels, ash-throated flycatchers an Lucy's Warblers. We want to see if we can replicate these successes and under what conditions the boxes succeed. If we can figure out how to be successful we will start public outreach that will involve a lot of new Arizonans in bird conservation and make new friends for Tucson Audubon. Bluebird box programs have had great successes such as this in the Midwest and East.

We are aided in this effort by Keith Ashley, a Tucson Audubon volunteer and masters student at Prescott College. He has taken the idea of a nest box pilot program and made it reality. Without his research on the needs of hole-nesting birds, correspondence with interested parties and coordination of volunteers at events like this we would not be nearly as far along on this project. He's done a great job.

Joe DeRouen, a skilled carpenter and father of Operations Manager Sara Pike, has also been an exemplary volunteer. He has cut wood for boxes on his table saw at home and on Saturday morning he was indispensable, using his portable equipment to fix little problems and make new parts as needed. Thanks Joe!

Joe DeRouen, carpenter and
nest box enthusiast
A big thanks to all the volunteers who came out to this and the previous nest box assembly party! There is one more scheduled for Saturday February 1, 10 - noon, in the courtyard outside the Tucson Audubon Nature Shop at 300 E. University Blvd. Contact Keith at to sign up.

Some nice birds made an appearance at the Mason Center this morning. I took a break from the volunteers to snap some photos.

Gilded Flicker
Costa's Hummingbird

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