Making birdhouses from a hollowed-out gourd is a tradition that dates to the Native Americans. Today, you can continue the tradition to create an eco-friendly, natural shelter to house your feathered friends. They make great additions to your backyard and make great gifts for the bird lover in your life.
Late summer is the perfect time to be on the lookout for the perfect specimen to create a birdhouse, whether you happen to grow a crop of bottle gourds in your garden or find some for sale at a local farmers market.
Gourds are not just a great material to make birdhouses, but a great opportunity to add homemade art to your landscape! Linda Venning / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Gourds: A quick history
Throughout history, gourds have been so much more than colorful accents for a cornucopia display. Gourds were used in the Asian, African and American continents as all-purpose containers. They were used for storage, transporting water and other goods. They were also purposed into bowls, musical instruments and decorations.
Early settler accounts indicate that members of the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes fashioned birdhouses from gourds for Purple Martins, hanging them from tree branches. These birds were natural crop defenders, as they would chow down on insects and chase off rival species that would eat the growing plants.
Curing gourds for birdhouse use
Gourds gain their tough, hardy structure after going through a curing process. That involves hanging in a warm, dry place for several months, so it can dry out, allowing the shell to harden into this wood-like consistency over the months. (You might see mold growing on the surface. This is perfectly normal, but you will want to wipe it down with a bleach solution, and give it a good scrubbing once it cures.)
When it’s finished curing, you’ll hear the distinct, sharp rattling of the seeds when you shake it. That indicates that it's ready for you to drill a bird-sized hole, along with holes for a hanger at the top and holes at the bottom for drainage.
Which birds will nest in a gourd?
People still set out gourd birdhouses for Purple Martins. Shop around, and you’ll also find gourd-shaped houses of man-made materials. A gourd house can also create a suitable spot for other cavity-nesting birds, including chickadees, wrens, swallows, woodpeckers and nuthatches. Be sure and find a suitable spot in a tree. Even if the birds don't take to it right away, you can still enjoy it as a whimsical decoration.
Along with providing shelter and a source of water, keep your feeders filled with a high-quality mix. Lyric Fine Tunes No Waste Mix has finely chopped pieces of peanuts, pistachios, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower kernels and hulled white proso millet. Because it’s 100% edible, you’ll get more enjoyment from watching the birds with less of the mess.