Phoebes are friendly song birds who like to nest close to humans. Perhaps they discovered that they can take advantage of the fear we instill in other birds to protect their nests and young. They risk choosing the wrong humans when they build so close, but it must work for them because they continue to do it. This particular pair of phoebes has built a nest for several years on the yard light beside one of our doors.
While it was sweet to have baby phoebes so close, having the birds there became a problem. The constant fluttering as they came and went from the nest to feed the young attracted the attention of our six house cats. The cats would climb the screen door trying to catch the birds. When I found the screen partially dislodged and within seconds of allowing the cats out, I knew we had to keep the door closed. Then the cats proceeded to climb the curtain over the window in the door. I had to take the curtain down. Very aggravating, especially since I’d like to leave the door open on nice days to cool the house and catch the breeze.
Last fall I decided the nest had to move. During the winter I searched until I found this solid aluminum shower shelf. It was under $7 with shipping. In March I secured it to the house under the eaves far enough from the door so the cats would no longer see the birds. Then I blocked off the area over the lights to prevent the birds from building there. Phoebes build a large, heavy nest using clay mud. They line it with soft moss, grass, hair and feathers. This complicated nest takes a lot of effort so the birds return every year to the same nest, repairing it when necessary.
I didn’t want to destroy all their work. I moved the nest to the new shelf. It would be interesting to see if the birds accepted the new location of their nest, built a new nest or went off somewhere else to live. In early April the birds came back. It seemed to ruffle their feathers to find the nest moved. After a bit I noticed them hanging around the new location. Then late last week I found mother phoebe on the nest.
It’s wonderful to have the birds nearby and still be able to keep the door open. Phoebes like to have two broods per year so they hang around for most of the summer. I will enjoy watching the baby birds grow up without worrying about the cats tearing the door apart.