Cori Brown: Good bird tenants needed

Cori Brown: Good bird tenants needed
Our newest resident, the Great Crested Flycatcher, is busy building a nest with mulch and shedded snake skins among other things. (Cori Brown photo)

Wanted: loving, dedicated couples. Must have good parenting skills, be able to live in cramped quarters, be neat and tidy. Usurpers need not apply (this means you house sparrows, house wrens, and cow birds). Tweet C. Brown,

Sometimes it’s tough being a landlord. Attracting good tenants can be a challenge. Some overstay their welcome. Others trash the place. Still others turn out to be thieves or don’t pay their rent. Hence the ad above.


With 11 deluxe properties spread across six acres, I have a lot to offer prospective tenants. They can choose houses with sloped copper roofs or decorated woodwork, rooms with a view or serene green shade.

The rent isn’t bad either. Raise a happy family and that’s enough payment for me.

But there’s always the bad boys and girls in the neighborhood. They would be the house sparrows and house wrens and they are flooding my properties with their obnoxious behavior. Did I hear eviction already?

House sparrows are the worst homemakers in the world! Their houses are stuffed to the rafters with bits and bobs of anything including cellophane, paper, and plastics. There is no rhyme or reason to their nest construction other than to hurry up and get it done.

House wrens (not to be confused with the beautiful Carolina wrens) are even worse in my book. They share a nasty habit with the sparrows of tossing out other birds’ eggs and babies. More egregious though is trying to stuff every box they can find with dummy nests to claim territory. Enough of this!

Some of my early tenants have prevailed in their fight to claim their condos. They include bluebirds and tree swallows. Both excel in interior design. Bluebirds love to use pine needles and weave wonderful nests perfect for their young. Tree swallows like hay or straw and line their nests with their own feathers. What a pleasure to see such artistry.

This year everyone is off to a late start except for the wrens. They are the only ones who have laid eggs. I attribute this to another wet and cold spring but perhaps other factors are a play, too. Either way, my good tenants have some catching up to do.

Despite the slow start, one very special couple has taken up residence quite close to our own house. The house they chose fits their special status. It is shaped like a barn with a copper roof and “Mail Pouch tobacco” painted on one side.

What a neat surprise when I saw a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers borrowing mulch from the base of a nearby tree and beelining for the barn house.

This is a first for me. I usually only hear these birds and most times they are high in the tree tops catching insects (they eat fruit, too). These nearly robin sized birds are predominately gray and brown except for lemony yellow bellies and rufous tails. Their lack of flashy colors makes them hard to spot, but if you hear a loud reep reep reep you have a Great Crested Flycatcher in your midst.

They are trendy interior decorators, too. Shedded snake skins often line their nests. How they can spot them on the ground is beyond me.

I can confirm that our couple has multiple snake skins in their nest. I know this because a wren neighbor has already tried to kick them out. It tossed several skins to the ground below the barn. As soon as I saw this happening, I immediately rushed her away and put the skins back in the nest.

It has already been a joy to watch them. They have an inquisitive nature and often pose with heads tilted to one side as if they are asking a question. Their slightly bouffant crests only add to their charm.

They remind me of the hairstyles of Baltimore hons!


I am now keeping a very vigilant eye on their nest though I know I have very little control over what happens to them. Perhaps they will put the wren in its place (as in far, far away) and get the chance to raise a family. Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed for them.