Dear Bird Folks,
I’ve heard you answer bird questions on Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds radio show, so maybe you can advise me. I recently saw an ad for a birdhouse that attaches to your window with suction cups. The side towards the window is wood-free, so you can see into the birdhouse and watch the nesting activity while sitting in the comfort of your home. Have you heard any feedback from your customers on this product?
– Betsy, Round Top, TX
I forgot about that, Betsy,
Believe it or not, I totally forgot that I’m a big-time radio star. Every month or so radio icon Ray Brown calls with a list of bird questions for me to answer. He records my replies and then plays them on his show. (The listeners think the conversation is live, so don’t tell anybody.) Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds is on every Sunday morning, but also can be heard online anytime at talkinbirds.com. It’s fun, informative and once you get past my segment, a really good show.
Stick-on-the-window birdhouses have been around for years. They have a clear back so folks can look through the window and into the nest. We first sold these houses about twenty years ago. At the time they were quite popular and I can see why. Who wouldn’t want to sit at the kitchen table, sipping a cup of coffee, eating a morning glory muffin and watching baby birds being fed in a nest attached to the window? Unfortunately, the only good part of this kind of birdhouse is the coffee and morning glory muffin (and the fact that we sold a lot of them). The birds had very little interest in nesting on a windowpane. Customer after customer told us they never saw a single bird use the window birdhouse. Eventually, we decided to stop carrying these birdhouses, which of course broke my heart. Discontinuing a popular item for the sake of not ripping off the public is so not my style, but I did it. Stupid ethics.
Years went by without anyone mentioning window birdhouses (the company that made them has since gone out of business) and we kind of forgot about them (like I forgot about being on the radio). Then another manufacturer, perhaps seeing a chance to cash in, reintroduced these birdhouses. Customers saw ads for them in magazines and once again came in looking for window birdhouses. We told folks about our experience with this birdhouse, and they wisely bought something else. But all that changed last year when a company started running TV commercials about a new window birdhouse. Because the product was on TV, kids started asking their parents for it. And as we all know, there is no talking kids out of anything. We were once again pressured into selling these silly birdhouses. However, we don’t sell the houses advertised on TV. Here’s why.
After receiving your question, Betsy, I decided to check out one of these heavily marketed birdhouses. As luck would have it, I found the exact birdhouse being sold where all of the best nature products are sold…in the “As Seen on TV” section of the local Rite Aid drugstore. After laying out my $14.95 in cash, I walked over to the seclusion of the toothpaste aisle and opened the box right in the store. I had pretty low expectations for this birdhouse, and it didn’t disappoint. Remember in your question when you said one side of the birdhouse is “wood-free”? Well, the entire house is wood-free. Oh, it looks likes wood, but it’s actually made of super-thin wood-colored plastic. I wanted to examine the product further but some lady had an emergency need to buy a tube of Poligrip, so I had to move on. Further inspection would have to wait until I got back to the lab.
Back at the lab (which is my kitchen table), I noticed something else I didn’t like about this birdhouse. Birds, especially baby birds, use their tiny claws to help them climb out of nesting cavities. But any bird’s claws would have trouble getting a grip onto this thin plastic. Then I found other problems. The wood of a traditional birdhouse insulates baby birds from the summer sun. Also, holes are customarily drilled near the top of a birdhouse to allow excess heat to escape. This TV house had no vent holes and the thin plastic provided little protection from the sun. (Maybe I should write this company a letter and tell them to make window saunas instead. I’m sure they’d love to hear from me. )
If you want to see action at your window, I recommend a stick-on birdfeeder and not a house. The birds readily come to window feeders and you are guaranteed to see some activity. Also, with a feeder, if the suction cups lose their grip and the feeder falls to the ground, all you have to do is dust it off and stick it back up. It wouldn’t be as simple if a birdhouse, filled with fragile eggs, fell off the window.
I wish I could recommend stick-on birdhouses, Becky, but the feedback I’ve received has been mostly negative. But if you want to try your luck, I suggest you buy one that is made of wood and not wood-colored plastic. Also, if you are worried about it falling off the glass, put a little spit on the suction cups before attaching it. Or better yet, apply a layer of Poligrip. That’s a little trick I learned from a lady in Rite Aid.