A bird in the house is worth … well … thousands of dollars

Dear Johnnie: I was driving by the city`s rec center the other day and got to wondering about their problem with flickers that was written up in the paper last year.

I remember reading about how the woodpeckers were doing a lot of expensive damage to the building. The paper said that the city was trying to scare the birds off with noise and so forth, which wasn`t working, but which was driving the neighbors nuts. Then the city announced that they were going to try installing birdhouses, giving the flickers a place to raise their young, which I thought was a wonderful idea. I was pleased to see that there are now lots of large birdhouses all over the building. Are they doing the trick? Do the birds still damage the building? How many did the city workers put up, where did they get them, and have they been cheaper than the methods previously used?

I love it when we can find a natural solution to a natural problem, and if it is indeed working there, maybe more folks can try this at home. — Bird Watcher

Dear Bird Watcher: The birdhouses appear to be doing the trick, mostly. Birds still do some damage to the building but not as much as they were doing in the past, as far as I can tell. And this method has been cheaper than patching holes.

The birdhouses on the Longmont Recreation Center were put there to give woodpeckers an option other than pecking holes in the stucco. (Joshua Buck/Times-Call)

I asked the city`s recreation manager, Jeff Friesner, about the bird problem. He emailed me back and told me that all of the 12 birdhouses that were installed in 2010 are occupied by flickers or other birds. “I believe we paid around $50 per birdhouse,” he wrote. “This year, the problem with the flickers doesn`t seem to be as big as in 2010. In the fall of 2010, staff covered a total of 28 holes. This year we currently have eight holes. We are working with the city`s purchasing division to send out requests for proposals to apply stucco to the building this fall after the birds are no longer nesting.”

I took a look for myself and — in addition to counting 12 birdhouses — found seven holes (I must have missed one) and 47 spots that appear to have been patched. I also saw plenty of birds on and around the building, but they were sparrows and grackle-like birds. No flickers in sight.

I asked a couple of rec center workers if they had noticed a change since the city installed the birdhouses. They said the situation is not as bad now.

Let`s look at the numbers:

2009: City spends more than $10,000 to patch holes.

Spring of 2010: City spends about $600 to install 12 birdhouses.

Fall of 2010: City spends $3,500 to patch holes.

I don`t know where the city purchased the boxes, but $50 seems reasonable for purchase and installation, based on the minimal research I did. And when I consider the investment on the whole, the math looks favorable to me.

Dear Readers: I got word on Friday that the broken step in front of the Coffman Street post office was being repaired, so I ran over to take a look. There it was: fresh cement in the shape of a step. I`m guessing it will be ready to walk on by the time you read this.

Thanks to the folks at the local post office and to Johnnie`s readers for helping get this done.

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