Restoration project uses birdhouses to replace nesting foliage

Dr. Frank Howe, adjunct professor of Wildland Resources at USU, explains the fundamentals of building a birdhouse and how they will benefit the Logan River restoration project.

Walking along the River Walk Trail at Rendezvous Park, it’s hard not to notice the bird houses and bat houses along the trail. Some 40 birdhouses and four bat houses were built and erected on long metal posts as part of the Logan River Restoration Project.

There are about 40 birdhouses along the River Walk Trail at Rendezvous Park as a temporary fix for nesting birds in the area.

The Logan River Task Force wanted to get rid of the non-native crack willows, a popular bird habitat. Some of the birds nested in older trees that were removed as part of the restoration. But, the Task Force wanted all the birds to stay and that is where the bird houses came in to play.

“The bird houses are a stop gap measure to keep birds in the area,” said Dr. Frank How, adjunct professor of Wildland Resources at Utah State University. “We will keep the bird boxes for 10 to 12 years, until the newly planted vegetation matures enough for the birds to use the natural habitat.”

Howe, an Avian Ecologist, said the project was funded by the Sally Sear’s Foundation.

“We worked with Stokes Nature Center, who contacted FFA and other volunteers to help cut the boards and put them together,” he said. “Some boxes were built for bigger birds, like wood ducks. The Logan River Task Force and Stokes Nature Center worked with Wasatch Wiggeons (a duck hunting club) to build the larger duck boxes.”

Bat houses are part of the landscape along the River Walk Trail at Rendezvous Park. Bats are voracious mosquito eaters.

Howe was raised in Minnesota, but came to Utah about 30 years ago and he likes to involve the community as much as he can.

“I’d rather have kids and other’s build these for the Restoration Project,” Howe said. “By getting more people involved, it helps them develop ownership for the project.”

Some of the boxes are the same size, only the size of the hole allowing the birds enter the boxes differs.  Smaller holes keep bigger, invasive and aggressive birds, like starlings, out.

The houses were also built with venting areas to keep them from getting too warm in the summer heat. They also have a sidewall that can be opened for easy cleaning.

Dr. Frank Howe, adjunct professor of Wildland Resources for USU, shows the virtues of having a loose wall that can be used to clean out the bird house at the end of the season.

“I wanted to see how the project was progressing, so yesterday I went over to see if they are being used,” Howe said. “The boxes have tree swallows, flickers, wood peckers and wrens nesting in them.”

The bat boxes look different from the bird boxes. They are black, with a wide front and back, thinner sides and no bottom, as bats enter from the bottom. The houses are placed where they can get the most southern exposure of the sun.

Bats don’t raise their young in the bat house. They are a valuable resource in the area. They can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour Howe said.

He said people may freak out when they hear there are bats in the area.

“Bats are not really that dangerous. They can be a danger if they act weird, like if they’re in someone’s house or found on the ground along a trail during the day,” he said. ”I’m not that concerned. There is water around and it keeps rabies at bay.”

Dr. Frank Howe, adjunct professor of Wildland Resources at USU, shows the bottom of a bat box used to house the mammals along the River Walk Trail at Rendezvous Park.

He said not only do these houses and birds control insects, they are a great educational tool.

“My mother had a bird box and look what it did for me,” he said “I think others should have them in their backyards, and bird feeders, if they can stand the mess that comes with them.”

“We are hoping to put additional bird boxes as we continue to work on restoration of the Logan River,” Howe said.


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1 Comment

  • Alec Hay May 18, 2019 at 9:10 am Reply

    This is a great effort. Are plans for these bird and bat houses available? What variety of bats are attracted to these houses?

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