Many backyard birders enjoy attracting nesting birds, but they also want their bird houses to be attractive garden decorations. Is painting bird houses safe for the birds, or will it make the houses less attractive or even dangerous for the birds?
Designs for Painted Bird Houses
There are many beautiful painted bird houses in every color and design imaginable. A simple solid color bird house is easy to paint, while some artistic birders create bird houses that resemble real homes' paint jobs. Themed houses are also popular, and a simple bird house can be transformed into a patriotic palace, country tea cottage or whimsical ornament with different paint schemes. Not all of these paint jobs are best for the birds, however.
Is Painting Bird Houses Good for Birds?
Birds that use houses aren't always picky about their accommodations, and they will nest in painted bird houses. Painting isn't always the best choice for bird houses, however, because a poorly chosen paint job can be dangerous to the birds. Bright colors can attract predators, while toxic paints can be poisonous to both adult birds and fledglings. Dark colors in sunny areas can also attract more heat to the house, making it unsuitable for young birds.
There are times, however, when a carefully chosen paint job can be beneficial for a bird house. While cedar and cypress houses are durable and do not require painting, pine or plywood bird houses can be made more weatherproof and long-lasting with a good coat of paint. White paint is also recommended for purple martin houses to help reflect heat away from these open area houses. The right paint job can also help camouflage a bird house and keep the nesting birds safe from predators.
Tips for Painting Bird Houses
To properly paint a bird house...
- Use water-based latex paint, and always avoid lead-based or creosote paints that may be toxic to birds. Consider trying alternative, eco-friendly paints as well, or opt for natural stains rather than paints.
- Avoid painting the inside of a bird house or around the lip of the entrance hole; growing birds may peck at surfaces and could ingest paint chips.
- Choose natural, camouflaged colors such as gray, dull green, brown or tan to help the house blend in to its environment. If the house will be mounted in a colorful flower garden, choose more colorful paints appropriately.
- Allow the paint to dry thoroughly for several days before mounting the house for birds to use. This will also allow potentially toxic odors to disperse before birds investigate the house.
- When cleaning the bird house at the end of each breeding season, check for peeling paint and repaint as necessary to keep the house in good, safe condition.
Painted appropriately with safe, neutral colors and non-toxic paints, a painted bird house can be attractive to birds, while a brightly colored, highly visible house may not attract tenets if more suitable nesting sites are available. By choosing paints, colors and designs carefully, backyard birders can enjoy attractive, decorative bird houses that birds will be happy to take up residence in.
Photo – Painting a Bird House © Benjamin Gray