• Assemble with galvanized screws to increase the life of the box.
• It's not necessary to paint or stain nest boxes, but use light colored earth tones if you do. They absorb less heat and are less conspicuous to vandals. Put a shingle or several coats of water sealer on the roof; it receives the greatest exposure and weathers faster than the sides. Do not paint the inside of the box.
• Be sure the box can be opened from the front or side for easy monitoring and cleaning. A box that can't be opened and cleaned is worthless after just one nest.
• Place the top of the entrance hole an inch below the roof. Keeping the hole high makes it more difficult for raccoons and cats to reach in and grab the contents of the nest. And because raccoons and cats are so common, protect the nest box from below with a metal predator baffle (www.naturehouseinc.com). A good baffle costs $25 to $50, will last a lifetime, and prevents a nest box from becoming a predator feeder. I prefer to have fewer predator-proof boxes than many predator feeders.
• Extend the roof at least five inches over the front of the box to protect the hole from wind-blown rain and marauding paws. Drill four quarter-inch holes in the floor so the box drains well if it does get wet.
• Never put a perch on the outside of a box. Cavity-nesters have strong feet and easily cling to vertical wooden surfaces. A perch only invites house sparrows to use and defend the box.
• Finally, boxes should be in place by mid March. Use plastic-coated number 12 or 14 electrical wire to strap boxes to posts. Hang boxes so they will be shaded during hot summer afternoons, and orient the hole to avoid prevailing winds and driving rain.
For more information and detailed nest box plans, visit www.nestwatch.org and click the "Learn" button. Then teach a child about cavity-nesters this spring.
Dr. Scott Shalaway can be heard 8 to 10 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 WVLY-AM (Wheeling) or online at http://tunein.com/radio/WVLY-1370-s23555/. Visit Scott's web site www.drshalaway.com or contact him directly at sshala...@aol.com or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.