Bird House in the meadow within the Hilltop Reservation
Bird House in the meadow within the Hilltop Reservation
Bird House in the meadow within the Hilltop Reservation
Bird House in the meadow within the Hilltop Reservation
© All Images: Native Bergen

Build A Better Birdhouse: Part 1

Just a little while back I got a chance to do some volunteer work in the prairie meadow within the Hilltop Reservation. I have a keen interest in this spot due to my own selfish desire to see what a native landscape with all the trappings might look like. But there were these bird houses, dotting the perimeter of the meadow. Something about them looked so pedestrian and token for lack of better word. The sight of them, in my opinion, completely invalidated the very real effort to encourage the masses to take the hilltop reservation seriously.

Disclosures and apologies: First, those bird houses are completely functional. The native birds love them/fight over them as prized real estate for nesting. Second, these bird houses were made by the boy scouts, have reinforced entrances and are perch-less in an effort to deter predators —theyíre not as makeshift as they might appear. Last and probably what youíre all saying, they’re just bird houses, right? There are way more important things to rail against. Oh well, haters gonnaí hate… This is NativeBergen; I’m kind of fixated on stuff like this.

Since one of lifeís greatest gifts is exploration, bear with me as I explore these ideas: Eco design, green design, animal-friendly design, environmental design, sustainable design and similar ilk must graduate and become awesome design period. Eco does not cancel out self-righteous/awful design*. Considering their impact, both negative and positive, maybe the most important animal to consider in designing solutions for wild nature is the human animal. I’m going to attempt to design and build a birdhouse that meets the needs of its bird inhabitants but also creates an emotional response from humans that would make them view ‘eco’ as legitimate and vital.

*I don’t consider the birdhouses planted within the Hilltop Preserve to be self righteous or awful. And I applaud the efforts of the people who placed them. At the same time I can’t deny the negative feelings I experienced when I saw them nor can I ignore the opportunity to improve on a good thing. For instance, the green U-channel post are probably very sturdy and rigid but I’m wondering if the vertical strip of bolt slots would make an excellent hand and foot hold for a rat, raccoon or other avian predator. Maybe a sheer metal post might work better.

This is a great opportunity. A birdhouse is a simple one room dwelling. Save for some very specific avian protocols, this design solution can accommodate many concerns while still meeting the needs of its primary occupants. I think a birdhouse can also serve as an easier testing ground for my lofty (and maybe ridiculous) theories on green design. In the next post Iíll try to highlight and crystallize all of the concerns and mandates for this better birdhouse design.
Build A Better Birdhouse Part 2
Build A Better Birdhouse Part 3
December 19, 2011|Posted in IDEAS, PROJECTS, THINGS|Tags: , | 2 Comments|Permalink to Build A Better Birdhouse: Part 1Trackback URL for this item

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  1. Bumped into your website while looking for native plant sales in the area. Am happy to see that you've "discovered" the importance of those bird houses : ) Wanted to share info on a small jewel of a place that few people know about: The Celery Farm - see . It's co-managed by the Town of Allendale and Fyke Nature Association (volunteer group). Once on site, it's easy to forget you're mere minutes from Rt 17 or right next to Rio Vista homes. Gabriele April 4, 2012 at 10:24 am

    • I tell you, this bird house thing is proving a lot harder than I thought. But I'm not giving up. I've got a huge Ailanthus (Tree of Heaven) log drying in my bedroom. Now that its getting warm its time to carve it up. I've been neglecting NativeBergen due to the cold weather but now that its getting warm I have to get back on it. I'll definitely check out the Celery Farm, if just for the name. Celery Farm? in North Jersey. I'll be there! And on your native plant hunt, I'd recommend Eastern Red Bud / (Cercis, Canadensis). This tree is blooming right now and definitely gives those Asian cherry trees a run for the money. Thank you for your comment and drop me a line if you find anything else that's up our alley. óNativeBergen April 4, 2012 at 12:59 pm

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