Yukon Bird Club
15 May 2021
Bird houses provide a nesting place for birds that normally nest in tree cavities or natural cavities in rocks. Natural tree cavities can be in short supply near settled areas of Yukon due to clearing of land for human uses, and because these cavities are normally found in dead and dying trees which are also very popular as firewood!
Bird houses can help supplement the supply of natural nesting cavities. Not all cavity-nesting birds will use a bird house, but many will. We have about 27 species of cavity nesting birds in Yukon, and about 20 of these will nest in bird houses. The most common songbird species that use bird houses here are: Tree Swallow, Violet Green Swallow, Chickadees (Black-capped, Boreal, Mountain), Mountain Bluebird, Northern Flicker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, House Sparrow (in downtown Whitehorse). The most common larger birds are: Barrow’s Goldeneye, Boreal Owl, Bufflehead, American Kestrel.
Some other species can be provided with various types of nesting ledges or platforms rather than typical bird houses: American Robin, Barn Swallow, Say’s Phoebe, Cliff Swallow, Canada Goose, Mallard, Great Gray Owl, Great Horned Owl, Osprey, Bald Eagle.
The best place to learn about Bird Houses is from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s Project Nestwatch: https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/
To see the species that use nest boxes, use their interactive tool Right Bird – Right House. Choose “Alaska” as the region, and you will get most of the common Yukon birds that use next boxes: https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/right-bird-right-house/.
(Note: you are asked to provide your email address in order to download nest box plans from this site)
Here is an excellent plan and detailed step by step instructions to build a “Yukon” bird house available from the Yukonstruct website:
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game also has great advice for birdhouses that will be suitable for use in Yukon as Alaska has virtually the same cavity-nesting species as we do.
For an example of what you can expect to find in Yukon bird houses, have a look at these interesting reports:
- bird houses in the Yukon Southern Lakes (2001): http://yukonbirds.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/ybc-nestbox2000.pdf
- Nest Box use at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve (2020): https://yukonwildlife.ca/research/2020-06-nest-box-mysteries/
Should you clean your nest boxes each year?
The short answer is yes, it is a good idea. Some birds clean cavities and reuse them if possible, others don’t. By cleaning your bird house, you are making certain it is ready to be used again each year. For the long answer, read this article….