Birding at Binbrook PDF Print E-mail

Screech Owl

The Binbrook Conservation Area has a wide variety of birds that can be seen at various times throughout the year. Wilf Yusek, a committee volunteer, is well known for his dedication to birding in the Hamilton area. As a result of many hours in the field, Wilf has produced a checklist of over 160 different species he has observed at the conservation area.

Numerous shore birds can be seen searching in the mud flats during the summer migration. During the fall migration you may see numerous flocks of geese and ducks winging their way southward. Winter finds the Black Capped Chickadee, Bluejays and many other birds active amongst the trees and shrubs that line the trails. In the spring the wetlands awaken and the Marsh Wren can be seen busily flying through the Bull Rushes. Have you ever seen an Osprey fly overhead, dive into the water, then only moments later, emerge from the water with a fish between its talons? This bird, also known as the "Fish Hawk", is a regular visitor to Lake Niapenco. Bring your binoculars and come see the Osprey and other species of birds that have been observed at the Binbrook Conservation Area.

Birding Photo Gallery (new! Osprey photos!)

Checklist of the Birds at Lake Niapenco

Eastern Bluebirds at the Binbrook Conservation Area


In 1991, the Glanbrook Conservation Committee installed twenty nest boxes at the Binbrook Conservation Area. In 1994, students from the Bellmore Public School Environmental Club, with the assistance of teacher Joan Kott and GCC members built and installed twenty nest boxes. The following year, Bellmore students installed another twenty nest boxes. There are now one hundred Bluebird nest boxes that are part of five Bluebird Trails at the Binbrook Conservation Area that are maintained and monitored by Glanbrook Conservation Committee volunteers.

Eastern Bluebirds – Nest Box Placement

If you are trying to attract Eastern Bluebirds, these are some basic guidelines.

  1. Location, Location, Location! Bluebirds are ground feeders - they like short grass and open areas. To avoid competition with House Wrens, the nest box should be at least 30m (100ft) away from wooded areas. The box should face small shrubs or brush that can act as a perch. Typically, you can place the boxes on the edges of areas where grass is regularly cut. Pastures are one of the best areas to place boxes as animal droppings attract an endless source of bugs

  2. Nest Box Height and Direction: Nest boxes should be placed with the entrance hole height at about 1.8m (6 ft.) from the ground to make them accessible for monitoring and cleaning. They should not be any lower than this as it would make them more susceptible to predation. The entrance hole should face in a southeasterly direction, away from the prevailing wind.

  3. Nest Box Spacing: Nest boxes, when part of a Bluebird Trail, should be placed at least 75m (300ft.) apart, as Bluebirds are highly territorial. Twinning nest boxes at 6m (20ft.) apart was once considered a method to reduce competition with Tree Swallows. Note that recent research has shown that twinning of Bluebird nest boxes is actually detrimental to the development of the bluebird population.

  4. Monitoring your Bluebird Trail: STOP – if for any reason you cannot monitor your nest boxes, take them down (or do not put them up). As a nest box landlord, you have the responsibility of protecting your trail. Bluebirds could potentially start nesting in April - it really depends on how warm the spring is and where you are located. Because of this, nest boxes should be checked or installed by March. Depending on how much time you have, boxes could be checked weekly. Checking during the egg laying stage usually will not scare aware the adults if it's done carefully. It is important though, to leave the box alone during the fledgling stage. An inspection at this time could cause the parents to abandon the nest.

  5. When to Clean the Nest Box: Bluebirds could fledge up to three broods per season, depending on weather conditions. Nest boxes could be cleaned out after each nesting but studies have shown that it is not necessary. The nest boxes should be cleaned out at the end of the season in the fall and checked again by March before the nesting season begins. During extended periods of cold wet weather though, the nest boxes should be checked more often as wet nesting material could contribute to the demise of the fledglings.

  6. Setting up a Bluebird Trail: Boxes should be numbered, placed in accessible areas, located and spaced as mentioned above. It is a good idea to create a map that shows where the boxes are located. Numbered tags should be attached to each box (or painted).

  7. Predator Guards: STOP – if for any reason you cannot install a predator guard, do not put up your nest box. Raccoon predation will ensure the complete failure of any attempt to establish a Bluebird colony. Wood posts or trees should never be used to support a nest box. Nest boxes should never be attached to posts that are part of a fence line. If a wooden post is used to support a nest box, a suitable length of sheet metal must be wrapped around the post. Nest boxes are typically mounted on 1-1/4" pipe pole or T post. There are a number of different predator guards that can be attached to the pole below the box. Cone type sheet metal guards with a minimum outside diameter of 610mm (24") can be used. A 762mm (30") long by 153mm (6") diameter piece of stovepipe or ducting can also be attached below the nest box to reduce the chance of raccoon predation.

  8. House Sparrows – These birds were introduced to North America from Europe and have no kinship to the many other types of beautiful native sparrows. They will effectively out-compete Bluebirds that are trying to establish a nest. It will take a concerted effort to eliminate them. Some people will use specially designed traps or will keep cleaning out the house sparrows nests as they attempt to build them. Generally speaking, nest boxes that are at least 152 meters (500ft.) away from buildings will have a less likelihood of attracting house sparrows.



  • Wood such as pine, cedar or spruce plywood is the preferred building material

  • The thicker the wood, the better the insulation valve

  • Since it will not crack, plywood will tend to provide the longest life for a nest box

  • Do not use pressure treated wood.


Typically, 1-1/2" and 2" long galvanized ardox nails are used to fasten the box together. To increase the life span of the box, wood screws, size No. 6 x 1-1/2" can be used along with outdoor type wood glue.

Except for the entrance, drainage and vent holes, the nest box should be securely sealed for three reasons:

  • To reduce unnecessary drafts during cold spells

  • To prevent water from "wicking" into the nest box by capillary action.

  • Reduce fastener corrosion due to acid rain


To improve nest box life, the exterior of the box can be painted with a light brown or green exterior latex paint. Do not apply any finish to the interior of the nest box or entrance hole. Do not use a wood preservative.

Entrance Hole Size

The optimum entrance hole size is 1-1/2" diameter. This hole size prevents Starlings from entering the box. The entrance hole should be sanded smooth to prevent feather damage as the bird enters and leaves the nest box.

Fledgling Grooves

On the inside face of the nest box below the hole, grooves or other suitable type of gripping surface must be provided fledglings will not be able to exit the nest box.

  • Grooves: Starting just below the entrance hole on the interior of the box, horizontal cuts approximately 3mm (1/8") deep by a saw blade width, spaced about 25mm (1") apart, approximately five cuts in total

  • Wire Mesh: A fine wire mesh can be stapled beneath the hole


Typically, the right or left side panel of the nesting box is hinged to provide access for cleaning and monitoring. Two nails can be used as a crude hinge.

To lock the door, use a No. 8 or No. 10 x 1-1/4" wood screw.

To prevent unwanted access by predators (or humans) do not use latches.

GCC EASTERN BLUEBIRD NESTBOX (click here for plan)


  • All pcs cut from 5/8 exterior plywood

  • Bottom - one pc. 4-5/8 x 4-5/8

  • Fixed Side - one pc. 4-5/8 x 11-1/2, cut at 72 degrees

  • Front - one pc. 5-7/8 x 10 with 18 degree mitre cut

  • Back - one pc. 5-7/8 x 18" with 18 degree mitre cut

  • Door - one pc. 4-5/8 x 11-1/2 cut at 72 degrees

  • Roof - one pc. 7-3/4 x 9-3/4

  • 2" ardox galvanized nails (approx. 22 per box) or No. 6 x 1-1/2 wood screws

  • one of No. 8 x 1-1/4 pan head wood screw (for door lock)

  • exterior wood glue


  • On two opposite corners of the bottom pc. item 3, cut 3/8 x 3/8 mitre for drain holes.

  • Drill a 1-1/2" dia. hole through the front.

  • Cut five kerf cuts approx. 1/8 deep across the inside of the front pc. and two or three short kerf cuts on the outside of the front below the entrance hole.


  • See sketch - parts are numbered in the order of assembly.

  • For added durability, glue and screw the nest box together.

  • Two nail "hinges" support the door. Locate the nails about 1" below and horizontal from the front corner of the nest box to prevent splitting the plywood.

  • To allow the door to swing open properly and to prevent excessive drafts, keep the gap at the top of the door at 1/8" (3mm).

  • Use the screw as a door lock.

  • Remove all rough edges from the entrance hole with sandpaper.


The exterior of the box can be painted with a light brown or green exterior latex paint or stain. Do not apply any finish to the interior of the box or entrance hole.


  • Attach the nest box to a pipe or "T" post with a "U" clamp or other type of bracket.

  • Face the nest box southeast.

  • Hole should be 1.8M or 6ft. above the ground (or higher)

  • To prevent predation by racoons, install a tube or cone type predator guard

Eastern Bluebird Nest Box Program

In an effort to increase Bluebird nesting opportunities in Glanbrook and surrounding areas, the Glanbrook Conservation Committee has held nest box workshops for a number of community organizations:

  • Collegiate Avenue P.S.
  • Mt. Hope Cubs/Scouts
  • Janet Lee P.S.
  • Smithville Brownies
  • Fesenden P.S.
  • Parkwood P.S.
  • Mt. Hope Sparks
  • Bell Stone P.S.
  • Binbrook Woman’s Institute
  • Viscount Montgomery PS
  • Caistor Cubs
  • St. Paul’s C.S.
  • Down to Earth
  • Westview Mountain S.S.
  • Caistorville Neighborhood Events Committee
  • Tapleytown Cubs
  • Assumption C.S.
  • L. Morris
  • Tapleytown/Mt. Albion Cub
  • Woodburn Pathfinders
  • Ancaster Cubs
  • Caistor Beavers
  • Bellmore P.S.
  • GCC Glanbrook Workshop
  • 3rd West Saltfleet Beavers
  • Caistor Sparks and Pathfinders
  • Caledonia Scouts
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