Gourds make excellent homes for birds who are nesting. It is believed that the Native North Americans were the first culture to utilize gourds to attract wild birds. Gourds are also thought to be the oldest type of man-made birdhouse. There are numerous species of birds that live in gourds. But what kind of birds live in gourds?
Chickadees, House Sparrows, Bluebirds, Purple Martins, Swallows, and some species of Finches, are all examples of wild birds that live in gourds. They will often hollow out a gourd to roost in it, then build a nest to raise their young. Birds have been living in gourds for a very long time!
Let’s learn more about what kind of birds live in gourds.
Why Do Birds Live in Gourds?
The most obvious answer is because it provides a quick and easy shelter for them to build a nest in. Areas that have many gourds also provide a unique community for birds.
Author Note: Stringing gourds up on a line or creating a pole system with protruding arms will accommodate many types of wild birds. Being extremely social birds, most of the above species will thrive in gourds that are close together. This will create an environment these birds thrive on.
The majority of wild birds are territorial with regards to their nesting habits, so cavity nesters usually require a space of twenty to thirty feet between homes to be comfortable with their neighbors. Although some birds can survive within close proximity to other species, they will chase and drive members of their own species out of their perceived territory.
Let’s learn how you can set up your own gourd community for birds.
How Long Does a Gourd Take to Dry Out?
This depends on the size of the gourd that you have, and the entire drying process could range from one to six months. Initially, you will notice that the outer skin of the gourd becomes firm, and the colors will start to set. This usually takes place in the first few weeks.
Over the next month to six weeks, the internal section of the gourd will dry.
Where Do You Hang a Gourd Birdhouse?
You can hang your gourd birdhouse outdoors on a tree or a post, and it is best to hang them before the birds arrive in early Spring. Attach them with sufficient space between homes and try to familiarise yourself with the nesting habits of the birds you are trying to attract as some may have different preferences.
When the birds migrate at the end of the season, clean the gourds out and store them in a dry, safe location in preparation for the following Spring.
How Do You Preserve Gourds?
The reason that you need to preserve gourds is that they collect mold and dirt in the fields or garden, and it’s this mold and dirt that caused the gourd to rot. There are four simple steps to removing these contaminants:
- Combine two tablespoons of bleach to one gallon of freshwater with a squeeze of dish soap.
- Allow the gourds to soak in the solution for approximately twenty to thirty minutes.
- Rinse and dry the gourds thoroughly.
- Spray the gourds with a coat of spray matte sealer to ensure preservation.
What Are the Different Types of Gourds?
Lagenaria siceraria are hardshell gourds, which means “drinking vessel”, as this is one of their many uses. There are numerous types of gourds, namely: Dipper gourds, Bottle gourds, Speckled Swan gourds, Penguin gourds, and Caveman’s club.
- Dipper gourds
Dipper gourds can be used for birdhouses, ornamental features, and drinking vessels. They are sprawling plants that produce massive amounts of fruit throughout the year.
- Bottle gourds
With white flowers and a long melon, it is commonly known as a Calabash. It can either be harvested young to be consumed or harvested when it is mature to be dried and used as a utensil.
- Speckled Swan gourd
This gourd is a hard-shelled fruit that is dark green with yellow-green spots when young. They are called speckled swan gourds because they resemble a swan and have the spots mentioned earlier. Speckled swan gourds can only be used for crafts, decoration purposes, birdhouses, and bowls as the fruit is inedible.
- Caveman’s Club
This gourd has a narrow handle that ends in an oblong shape. It is deeply veined and ridged and is also known as Marinka. It is excellent for making birdhouses as it has a hard shell and is attractive as well.
What’s even better is that the fruit of the Caveman’s club is edible.
What Are the Advantages of Natural Gourd Houses?
There have been studies carried out to try and determine which materials wild birds prefer with regards to their birdhouse. Studies show that Purple Martins prefer gourds to any other birdhouse building material that is available.
Author Note: Apart from the Purple Martins, numerous other species also preferred a more natural gourd and are the preferred nesting choice for Cavity Nesters.
Traditionally, the size of Purple Martins compartment was 6×6 inches, which now appears to be too small. By creating a larger compartment, for example, 10×12 inches, provides fewer predators, less crowded conditions, which leads to drier nests.
This also helps the fledglings to remain in the nest until maturity due to the fact that there is now more space between the entrance hole and the floor of the compartment.
For cavity nesters like blackbirds, starlings, and house sparrows, this forms a significant safety barrier from predators.
How Do Human-made Gourd Houses Compare?
Homemade birdhouses and gourds come in second and third respectively as housing choices and are extremely popular with our feathered friends. Usually made out of plastic, human-made gourds don’t offer the same level of insulation as natural gourd houses (better than aluminum and other metals) but do offer the same size advantage.
Please remember that not all bird species are cavity nesters and prefer to nest on a branch or even on the ground.
What is the Purpose of Crescent-shaped Entrance Holes?
In the ongoing battle against nesting bird predators, it has been discovered that purple martin houses were less susceptible to predation when the entrance holes were 2 inches in diameter. While purple martins are able to easily navigate this shape and size, starlings and blackbirds had extreme difficulty.
How Do Gourds Provide Better Insulation for a Baby Bird?
Gourd birdhouses (and wooden birdhouses) have the ability to keep the heat out in summer and the warmth in winter. This means that they provide better insulation properties throughout the year. In some years, when there are cold temperatures in May and June, there can be high mortality rates in Canada and across the Northern United States.
Aluminum and other types of metals have extremely poor insulation, so it’s best to observe regional temperatures and how this may affect birdhouse building materials.
Do All Bird Species of Cavity Nesters Prefer Gourd Houses?
As mentioned earlier, gourd birdhouses are the preferred choice for many species of birds, but interestingly the house sparrow does not prefer them. With a bad reputation for extremely aggressive behavior, especially towards nesting bluebirds, this should be good news to most.
Author Note: With bluebirds on the brink of extinction over the past few decades, humans have assisted in their recovery, which has accentuated the dislike for house sparrows.
In certain recovery programs, a house sparrow will oust an entire bluebird family from their bird box, even killing the parents and the baby birds. In stopping house sparrows from invading their homes, the use of gourds as bird houses could be a major benefit to the bluebird population.
How Does Color Make a Difference for Gourd Birdhouses?
Birds, more often than not, will choose a gourd that has a more natural color over a gourd that is ornamental and brightly painted, but not necessarily mean that bright will not be used.
What Direction Should a Birdhouse Face?
The most important thing to consider when putting up a gourd for birdhouses is to ensure the birdhouse faces the opposite direction to prevailing winds. This means a rule of thumb; birdhouses should face a north-easterly direction.
Although any height you can reach should be safe, try to put them at least five feet off the ground.
Birds like their privacy, so don’t mount their birdhouses near bird feeders or water sources that are designed to attract birds. With a few exceptions, privacy is sought after when birds are rearing their young.
Providing some relief from the hot afternoon sun is not a requirement, although having some shade might help during the incubation process.
Generally speaking, if you can find a spot that gets a balanced ratio of sun and shade, the birds will be happy. Obviously, this is also dependent on the area where you live and the type of climate that you live in.
Those in hotter climates, especially in areas where there is not too much difference between seasons, will find that the birds prefer a house out of the hot sun.
Do You Put Anything Else in a Birdhouse?
Birds that do not build elaborate nests may appreciate some small wood chips or even a thin layer of compost. However, most birds are picky and will simply rearrange or even remove materials that have been added.
If you have ever watched a bird build a nest, then you can appreciate just how fussy some birds can be. And if you have ever watched a male bird- a weaver, for example- build a nest only to be turned down by the female- then you can appreciate even more how fussy some birds can be.
But adding things in your birdhouse, as long as they are natural, is not likely to turn birds away. Birds are generally brilliant and resourceful animals and will quite easily find the safety of a birdhouse all too good to pass up on. They will simply remove and ‘rearrange the furniture.’
Birds use a wide variety of materials, from mosses, grasses, mud, animal fur, spider silk, and twigs. Sometimes special materials like Aluminium foil, plastic bags, and even snakeskin can be seen in a bird’s beak as he is building a nest.
We hope you found this article on what kind of birds live in gourds useful and informative. Gourds provide birds with a unique shelter that they can call their home. See a bird living in a gourd in your yard? Let us know about it in the comments below.
Fly high friends!
There are various theories as to the origin of the word gourd but it is thought to date back to the 1300s and is related to the original word for cucumber.
Not decorative ones but you can eat their relatives the pumpkin and squash.