Contest to Help Birds in the City
As various bird species decline in populations across the nation, humans also lose the many benefits provided by birds: insect control, pollination, seed dispersal, aesthetic appeal, etc. Those of us in more rural settings like Nibley, Utah, love hearing warblers, finches, wrens, and towhees sing all day long.
The Cache Valley Wildlife Association, a local volunteer group inspired by the National Wildlife Federation, works to encourage residents of Cache Valley in Utah to design wildlife-friendly gardens and habitats. Our goal is to become the first City in Utah officially certified as an NWF Community Wildlife Habitat, and our Committee is striving to accomplish that goal by doing community projects and working on our own property.
With feral cats and invasive species spreading through the city, we felt we needed to do something to help provide better nesting habitat for birds in our community. We planted hundreds of native trees and shrubs throughout the city, and conduct a free flower, bulb, seed exchange every fall. Additionally, to improve nesting habitat for local songbirds, we started the Annual Birdhouse Building Contest.
The purposes of this contest are threefold: to provide nesting sites, to improve an area for bird habitat, and to highlight the creative building skills of our residents.
For the 3rd Annual Birdhouse Building Contest this year, we advertised months in advance. We requested that all houses be taken to the city office building by mid-march, so that we could judge the houses and have them up by nesting season.
Creativity was encouraged, but the birdhouses also had to function properly and be easily cleaned out each season. We had three age-group categories and offered the winners cash prizes plus one-year memberships to the Stokes Nature Center. After the contest, people chose to sell their birdhouses, take them back home, or donate them to put up in local parks.
To help get a project like this started in your community, we recommend learning about nesting boxes suitable for your area, getting support from your local city officials, providing prizes (donations, cash, etc.), publicizing the contest in the local media, and showing the entries and winners in the paper.
About the Author: Ron Hellstern is the leader of the Cache Valley Wildlife Association.