Subj: Fw: Plicatic Acid, Tree Swallows
Subj: pondering cedar
Subj: Re: Cedar nestboxes
From: Ervin Davis
Sent: Sunday, September 26, 1999 7:58 AM
Subject: Cedar nestboxes
I'm not certain as to whether or not to even respond to the
anti-CEDAR nestbox issue, but here goes anyway. I'm far enough
away to take the heat!
Guess I'm missing the boat, somehow. Since 1976, Art Aylesworth
and Duncan Mackintosh had been assembling and distributing
nestboxes made of CEDAR to folks with trails and have shown
remarkable success with assisting in increasing the numbers of
BLUEBIRDS. Over the past 20+ years, MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD TRAILS,
INC. has provided over 30,000 (yes, thirty thousand) CEDAR
nestboxes and has found no evidence of dying BLUEBIRDS due to the
use of the CEDAR nestboxes. Predation and inclement weather are
the most prevelant.
NABS recommends the use of CEDAR, along with PVC pipe, etc. It
seems odd to me that just recently there is discussion about
BLUEBIRDS dying because of the use of CEDAR nestboxes. Where have
all you anti-CEDAR folks been for the past umteen years? We'll
continue to use CEDAR as long as the fledging success continues to
Erv Davis (MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD TRAILS, INC.) Montana
Subj: Re: The Cedar Question
From: Fread Loane
Sent: Sunday, September 26, 1999 1:33 PM
Subject: The Cedar Question
I have now spent nearly four hours on researching "plicatic acid" and "occupational asthma" and call Gary Springer's attention to David I. Berstein's book A Primer on Allergic and Immunological Diseases, Fourth Edition. In Chapter 12, titled "Allergic Reactions to Workplace Allergens" and I quote: "To date more than 240 substances have been identified as specific causes in Occupational Asthma in industrial settings........... Plicatic acid, an organic acid in red cedar wood dust causes Occupational Asthma in 5% of sawmill workers."
The above was found in The Journal of the American Medical Association Library; Vol. 278; pp1907-1913, December 10, 1997.
Note the key words "industrial settings" and "red cedar wood dust". Industrial settings would be indicative of sawmills or places where a great amount of sawing, sanding etc. is taking place. Plicatic acid is most prevalent in the 'heartwood' or the most red wood of cedar--calling attention to "red cedar wood dust". In those conditions 5% of the millworkers complained of Occupational Asthma. This means that 95% of those men showed no symptoms.
With this information, I am of the opinion to see little or no reason not to use cedar wood in nestbox construction.
Fread J. Loane
Subj: Cedar and PVC
Date: 9/26/99 1:46:16 PM Central Daylight Time
To: BLUEBIRD-L"at"cornell.edu (BLUEBIRD-L)
Cochranton, NW PA
Raising the question of the safety/hazard of cedar nestboxes has raised some extremely interesting and educational discussion. It has also drawn in a question of safety of pine boxes. Strictly personal musing, by no means researched, but since at least Eastern Bluebirds often use pine needles for nesting materials which would nestle their eggs, altricial hatchlings, and babies directly in a pine environment, I could not help but question that she would cause Bluebirds to have such a nesting instinct if pine truly were a hazard to them. Perhaps nature knows of some benefit her natural toxin provides to bluebirds that we humans have not yet discovered.
I couldn't help seeing the way the subject of cedar hazard was raised as being a commercial for a particular website selling PVC boxes. If we are going to consider potential toxic effects, I think it would also be appropriate to consider the carcinogenic dioxin emitted in the manufacture of PVC. Evidently, it is considered so serious in Europe that at least several of the European countries are working toward 100% prohibition on its manufacture within their boundaries. Denmark has already attained this goal and Germany and Austria are quite near it. Because of the toxic effects of manufacture of PVC, Volkswagen has totally eliminated PVC from its cars. I noticed the subject was raised in a response to the National Wildlife Federation - an organization which is quite strongly on record as opposing the manufacture of PVC because of its highly carcinogenic effects: "PVC (poly vinyl chloride) is produced from imported, non-renewable fossil fuels and lethal chlorine gas. Production involves transport of dangerous explosive materials and the creation of toxic waste. Additives like heavy metals or plasticizers needed for various applications of PVC can be carcinogenic or otherwise harmful, particularly when plasticizers evaporate or leach into food. In the production or incineration of PVC, chlorine reacts with other chemicals to form unwanted by-products like dioxin, PCBs, hexachlorobenzene, acidic gases, and others. PVC cannot be effectively recycled because of its different chemical additives. If landfilled, it eventually releases its additives, threatening ground water. Fires and incinerators cause the release of PVC's toxic chemicals such as dioxin." http://www.nwf.org/water/facts/cwapvc.html
The whole subject or toxic woods and plastics has been extremely informative. Thank you, Gary. In searching toxic wood, I stumbled upon a chart listing 30 or so woods and showing all of them have some toxic effects on humans. The chart does, indeed, show western red cedar as having toxic effects to human. But says it is from the sawdust, leaves and bark - not the wood itself. Depending upon which "pine" is used, some have toxic potentials from the wood itself, others from the dust, leaves and bark. http://www.oneida-air.com/toxic.htm
Subj: Cedar Nestboxes
Date: Tue, 8 Feb 2000 17:17:06 -0600
what's wrong with using cedar for bird houses? I just cut out all my wood for the houses and I wouldn't want to do anything that's dangerous for the birds
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 18:13:52 -0500
Shame on those folks who lead this lady to feel compelled to apologize for mentioning any given topic. Kindness never hurt anybody. Cabin fever seems to have not brought out the best of our traits.
The comparison between cedar bird boxes and cigarette dangers inspired the following inane tale. Please remember the first liar doesn't stand a chance.
An old timer once told us while out on the bluebird trail not to worry nor to be faint of heart 'cause "our bluebirds are so tough they use their tail feathers to light their match as they take a smoke break, unfiltered Lucky Strikes seems to be the brand of choice.
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 15:41:06 -0800 (PST)
Wendy, this is Sandy, I only had l baby all summer out of my cedar box. Two other eggs did not hatch. Sandy
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 21:50:08 -0500
Wendy, Sandy, and Gary,
I've been following the discussion about cedar and noted this most recent posting. We have a couple of cedar boxes. In one of them, a pair raised 6 chicks which fledged without problem. Wrens destroyed eggs the second time. In the other box, another pair raised two broods of 4; all fledged. We've had bluebirds in these boxes every year since 1996. Patty Haught, Fairview, WV
Subject: Re: Cedar/Plicatic acid poison
Wendy, this is Sandy, I only had l baby all summer out
Date: Tue, 8 Feb 2000 07:17:42 -0800
From Wendy Guglieri in Rescue, California
It's happened! The God's have smiled on me, and are sending Hatch Graham my way with all the nest boxes I need for my 2 new trails! He called today, and is going to pick up 100 boxes (not all mine, but I'll have plenty for my needs) from some kind soul who has made them. No, not cedar - redwood. Just happens that's what the man uses in construction.
I have 6 of them already, very nicely made - NABS side-opening. So now all I need is to get them all put up! I'm definitely a happy camper...
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 18:06:13 -0600
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 18:02:10 -0800 (PST)
Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2000 01:29:17 -0600
From: "Bruce Johnson"
Subject: Re: cedar
Hello again Gang:
As many of you know I recently sold my company http://www.luckypenny.com so I'm not trying to commercialize by this or any other of my posts. The views I
will express here are from years of personal experience with working with cedar. I do not intend to try to persuade anyone's opinion as to whether to use cedar or not.
After years of being exposed to the dust from this material, and I really abused it, I developed respiratory problems like asthma. If I wear a good, (not one of those cheap lightweight masks,) religiously I can still work with this material without problems. Any wood dust or foreign materials we breathe into our lungs has the potential of creating problems. When using power tools that generate fine dust, a mask is a good idea.
Being inside a van load of cedar products even in the summer heat does not create any problem for me as long as I do not create dust from these objects by blowing them off or shaking out boxes Ect. After a product has thoroughly lost all it's original tree moisture, lead me to believe the amount of fumes given off is negligible.
Now it is just breathing the dust and not the odors that create problems for me. I think the word fumes is not an accurate description. My experience has been that once the product is exposed to the weather, the odor becomes almost non-existent.
Even if we agree that we have no way of knowing there will be absolutely no harm to occupants of products made from this material due to fumes/odors, we should factor in the fact that western cedar is more porous and has better insulating qualities that less porous woods. Nesting boxes constructed from this material are cooler than those made of pine. If we are going to split hair, do we want to lose the fledglings to excess heat or to assumed fumes.
I doubt that either of the above makes any appreciable difference. The most important thing is to locate the boxes safely and monitor them. Use whatever wood you have at hand, the blues will appreciate anything you provide them with.
Bruce Johnson ~ Life Mbr. NABS
2795 Long Oak Drive
Germantown (South Western Tennessee)
Date: Sat, 12 Feb 2000 23:39:45 -0800 (PST)
To everyone.. This is the response I got from the
Cornell lab about cedar when I asked them. Am forwarding to everyone( please
excuse any redundancy) even though Mrs. Scriven has sent us her very informative
response. AMEN! Horace in the Durhan/Chapel Hill area
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 13:08:25 -0800 (PST)
Hi Jeff. I don't think I'll have any problems of this sort, since my boxes have been out a while.. but I'm forwarding your informative response to everyone as there may be other new people that can learn from the information in your response. Thanks very much... Horace in NC.
Jeff Johnston MontyBurns"at"bigfoot.com wrote:
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 04:03:51 -0800
I wouldn't worry about bird houses made of cedar if the wood isn't freshly milled. If the bird house has been constructed more than a few months before the birds move in, the high level of volatiles from the wood should be reduced greatly. Most of the papers on the toxic effects of cedar and pine are from being exposed to freshly cut wood or wood shavings and sawdust, which has an enormous amount of surface area compared to wood boards. The extra surface area releases far more volatiles.
If you're concerned about possible respiratory problems from cedar bird houses, allow the bird houses to weather in the sun for a month or so. Position it so the sun can shine inside the nest area but allow for rain to escape. I wouldn't put it anyplace where it could fill with water, or you might encourage fungi to invade the wood. (Even though it's rot resistant, if cedar is waterlogged you encourage fungi.)
Any nesting box that's already been used to rear previous clutches of young should be safe since enough time has passed for the wood to release most of the volatiles.
I hope this helps.
Date: Fri, 06 Apr 2001 19:27:58 -0400
I've just come from a web site (which sells pine blue bird boxes), which categorically states that cedar should *not* ever be used for bird boxes. Of course, I read that after mounting a bird box just last week.
The literature at that site states that cedar fumes kill or maim both adult and baby birds.
Does anyone out there have any reliable information on the subject -- or opinions? I don't want to hurt the birds here, but I not only built one out of western red cedar, but I have others that I bought commercially which are made out of cedar.
Thanks for any help. VMS
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2001 17:56:51 -0700
It's just "opinion", don't worry about it...enjoy your cedar box.
From: "v. m. straus" v.m.straus"at"mail.wdn.com
Sent: Friday, April 06, 2001 16:27
Subject: Help: Using Cedar for Bird Boxes
I've just come from a web site (which sells pine blue bird
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2001 20:14:37 -0700
When in doubt, go to the experts! From the Cornell Nestbox handbook, pg 1.4:
"Pine and cedar are both popular woods for building nestboxes. Redwood is a good choice if you can find it. White and yellow pine are commonly used, as are red and white cedar. Both types of pine are commonly used for framing new houses and the cedar is a popular choice for house siding."
So, if Cornell recommends it, I think we can enjoy all of our cedar boxes! I know I LOVE mine and hope the blues will, too!
From: v. m. straus v.m.straus"at"mail.wdn.com
Sent: Friday, April 06, 2001 4:27 PM
Subject: Help: Using Cedar for Bird Boxes
I've just come from a web site (which sells pine blue bird
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2001 22:24:56 EDT
I, too have heard that. The reasoning was always cedar repels bugs & such with natural chemicals. I think the big deal is with the cedar & pine chips for small animals, some chemicals added which make it hard on the lungs. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm sure cedar wood is fine. I imagine the birds aren't too picky in the wild if they find a good, hollow cedar tree.
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2001 21:33:56 -0500
Greetings all - If you sold pine Bluebird boxes, wouldn't you try to
discredit cedar? I've probably made over 1000 western red cedar boxes and I've
read all the pros & cons about the cedar boxes and use them exclusively on my
145 box trails. Fledged over 819 young from them last year. When the fledglings
left the boxes, that I observed, they were not handicap as to flying ability nor
were their parents. That is my only recommendation. Enjoy your Bluebird cedar
box and don't worry anymore about it. There seems to be something wrong about
anything in this world. Loving the Blues. Dan McCue in Camden, TN. 75 miles due
west of Nashville on the Tennessee River in West TN.
From: "v. m. straus" v.m.straus"at"mail.wdn.com
Sent: Friday, April 06, 2001 6:27 PM
Subject: Help: Using Cedar for Bird Boxes
I've just come from a web site (which sells pine blue bird
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2001 22:46:22 -0400
Hello all. I build all my boxes, though sometimes I buy some to see how well they are made. I use both pine and cedar, and I have found a neat way to combine the two.
First of all, cedar is an irritant to humans, and while cutting or sanding western red cedar, one must take care not to inhale the dust. It can cause irritation and an allergic reaction in most people. Avoid it by wearing a mask and run a vacuum to collect the sawdust.
Now here is my solution. Those who do not compromise will dislike it, but I love it:
I make the house of pine, except the roof I make of cedar. Reason: cedar is excellent outdoor wood, it is oily and takes the sun and rain very well, no other finish is needed. No fumes come from the roof, it is well vented...
The rest of the house I make of pine. Reason: pine is less expensive in my area, and in case there is merit to cedar toxicity, then pine is safer where the birds are.
Actually, as KK mentioned earlier, the degree of venting we provide in our nestboxes is so great that the air is moving all the time, and there is little chance the adult and baby birds will get any of the fumes (if they exist.) As most of us have noticed, the smell and fumes diminish quickly with time, and they cease to exist unless the wood is cut fresh again. Many birds fledged successfully in boxes I have which were made entirely from western red cedar. Using both cedar and pine to best advantage is a good way. If you have only one or the other, I'd say go ahead and use it...
This is my opinion, and I have been a woodworker for over 30 years! I must
admit, the facts I present are not backed by any scientific testing, just my
Fawzi from MD
From: "v. m. straus" v.m.straus"at"mail.wdn.com
Sent: Friday, April 06, 2001 7:27 PM
Subject: Help: Using Cedar for Bird Boxes
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2001 22:21:15 -0500
Dear Fellow Bluebirders,
It was suggested that we post the pictures to our website on a Bluebird page.
What a great idea! (Thanks, Barry!) Our son takes care of this for us, so we're
planning on getting the pictures up this Sunday afternoon. I'll let everyone
know when they are up. And, of course, we will keep following the progress of
this EABL couple, and hopefully their clutch! We're hoping for eggs sometime
Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2001 00:33:01 -0400 (EDT)
On Fri, 6 Apr 2001, judymellin wrote:
When in doubt, go to the experts! From the Cornell Nestbox handbook, pg
"Popular" is NOT the same as "safe." There are many citations on plicatic acid, one of the toxic compounds found in cedar. The webpage at http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/1765/bluebird/plicaticacid.htm has links to 38 medical references and 56 web references about plicatic acid, plus links to search engines so you can do your own current searches. Plicatic acid is a natural compound in cedar wood. It is NOT added after woodcutting. Cedar is used for cedar chests and dog bedding for a good reason: it kills small animals (or makes things so unpleasant for them that they will not live there).
Some people have suffered severe debilitating consequences of working with western red cedar. Perhaps these people had a genetic predisposition to such respiratory problems. Most were working in situations where they inhaled lots of red cedar dust. My advice is that you should take every precaution if you woodwork cedar NOT to inhale the dust at all. If you have respiratory problems already (emphysema, asthma, CF, for instance) DO NOT woodwork cedar (or pine either, which also has plenty of aromatic chemicals in it naturally).
If a nestbox still has a strong cedar smell, why not let it age a while before using it. Remember that you may get only a pleasant whiff, but the baby birds will be inhaling it 24 hours a day at a critical stage of their development. It will never be possible to establish a scientific proof that plicatic acid in cedar is dangerous to young bluebirds, but only because it is not possible to set up a definitive, controlled scientific test.
Be conservative. Better safe than sorry. (But DON'T inhale cedar dust yourself.)
(I don't sell a lot of nestboxes yet, but as a scientist I did look into the allegations that plicatic acid in cedar is dangerous. There is convincing evidence that it is, at least to some people, very dangerous.)
http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/1765/bluebird/plicaticacid.htm (This page has not been updated recently and undoubtedly many of the links will not work. Rely on a current Google or Medline search.)
Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2001 01:33:38 -0400
Hello V. M. Strauss,
I strongly agree that cedar should not be used for nest box construction.
Would you please post the url of the web site at which you read " that cedar fumes kill or maim both adult and baby birds" ?
Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2001 03:25:04 -0400
For anyone that thinks cedar is more expensive than pine, please give me the telephone number of the Home Depot in your area so I can make arrangements for you to purchase all the cedar boards you want at a lower price than you will be able to purchase yellow pine at the same store.
I've been wondering for a long time why so many more companies are using
cedar for nest box construction than those that use pine. The reasons are
It appears they are using very inexpensive cedar boards that were milled with the intention of being used as siding for homes and apartment complexes. These boards are also marketed as fence boards between 5.75 and 6 inches wide and 5 or 6 feet long. These can be purchased at bargain prices from between $3.00 and $5.00, depending on the season and how badly they want to get rid of the stack of wood that's been taking up space since they got the last batch for practically nothing.
The reason cedar is cheaper is that it can't be used for much other than siding and bird houses. I'm not sure yet but I don't think it can even be used in the manufacture of paper.
The chances are 99 percent or higher that the house you live in is constructed of pine 2 X 4's. Cedar isn't an option because it splits too easily and is not as strong as pine. The demand for pine is always high because it is used for just about everything wood is used for, while cedar is good for just about nothing except ornamental projects like siding, fencing and nest boxes. And apparently they are really pushing it. And it is all about money.
These boards are not only cheaper than pine but it is much lighter so it costs far less to ship the nest box when it is complete. Shipping practically equals, may even exceed the cost of the lumber to make a nest box. Get ready to pay 20 to 30 percent more to ship that strong heavy pine nest box. That would eat up about 15 percent or more of the profit even if they could get yellow pine at the same price as cedar siding.
Ever wonder why China isn't flooding the market with nest boxes like they are
everything else? The reason is that the shipping cost will be about as
More importantly, I've been wondering for a long time why so many birding
organizations continue to show nest boxes in their logo's and advertisements
with no over hang on the roof despite the extremely important role overhang
plays in keeping the nest box cool in hot weather and dry in wet weather.
When you really understand what makes a good nest box, you will understand that the nest boxes they show in their pictures are far less than ideal. And it now looks to me that the reason they don't want to change our image of a nest box as one with little or no overhang on the sides is that the manufacturers don't care enough about the birds to spend a little more money to use a roof board that is 8 or 10 inches wide. Those darn cheap siding boards are only about 5 and three quarters inch wide but that will just have to do.
Show me a manufacturer that makes a cedar bluebird nest box that has an inside floor of 4" X 5.5" and two inches of overhang on all sides. Sorry, those cheap cedar boards don't come wide enough to build one like that.
Too bad, bluebirds. We have to look at profits.
Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2001 08:18:51 -0400
Gary, et al,
My very first 'Bluebird' houses, back in the 60s, were made of redwood !!! I made 4 of them, and they all promptly became wren houses because I was so ignorant then. (They were mounted much too close to thickets.) They're still up, after about 35 years, and they're still wren houses. I saw them last fall when we revisited the campus.
Bruce Burdett, NH Bluebird Conspiracy, Sunapee NH
Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2001 09:19:01 -0400
Gary, I have to tell you that I make all the roofs from cedar, and I overhang at least 2" on three sides, more on the front. I buy it in 1x12 boards, and they come 16' long! Imagine the size of those trees... But, unlike what you say, it is more expensive than similar size white pine. I cannot find the cedar except at one store (T.W. Perry in our area.) All the Home Depots, and we have about 6 in our area, do not carry cedar, nor do the other lumber yards, except for the thin flimsy fence boards, as you mention. The ones I get are quite nice... and as I said, I use pine for the house and cedar for the roof...
You are right the cheap cedar stuff is not wide enough... but there is the more expensive, wide and quite good cedar too!
From: "Gary Springer" springer"at"alltel.net
Sent: Saturday, April 07, 2001 3:25 AM
Subject: cedar nest boxes
Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2001 09:39:05 -0400
You indicated that in New England, "pine" would be far too expensive to use
for structural components of houses and that yellow pine is tough enough to
But the fir that you indicated is used in building construction is commonly, and, properly referred to as pine, a word that is used to describe hundreds of species of trees in or related to the genus pinus.
They may call it Hemfir in your neck of the woods, a term I've never heard,
but they call it pine everywhere I've ever lived, even those who know it is
Further, other pines are stronger than the variety of pine you prefer to call fir, and I believe yellow pine is one of them.
And, back to the original point I was making, cedar can't even be included in
the discussion of woods suitable for use as 2x4's and 2x6's in structural
Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2001 10:33:45 -0500
Hello Gary & All:
Gary, man I love you, but unless there has been a drastic change in the
lumber market, you need to check your lumber prices and compare apples to
apples. If you are right I paid many, many thousands of dollars too much for
western cedar. That was after visiting all the larger lumber mills in the
northwest and British Columbia.I feel sure what you are referring to is the thin
fencing material made of second growth trees. It made be fine for fences, but it
I agree with you that many boxes are not built to designs that we now believe to be needed to be the best for nesting. Having worked a lot of trade shows where most all the major manufacturers were exhibiting their products, I observed first hand over a few year period that the quality and design of these products improved greatly.
There are dozens of companies out there that are building nesting boxes that have little knowledge of what is needed. Some of them are only interested in the bottom line.
The wide overhang, I'm in total agreement with. That will take some time before the companies go to this design. Only an increase in a proven need, with an increase in sales will bring about building with this design. Three things working against this design are increased shipping and display space problems. Another problem is that the average person will not like the looks of such a product and will buy something more pleasing to their tastes. No matter how good a product you have, unless it sells, no one benefits including the birds.
Personally I think my boxes look strange and downright ugly with the wide tops, but I use them when the temperature is high, because I know this design is better.
It will take an educational process to get both the manufacturers and
retailers to go with the wide overhang design. Even with all our help it will
Bruce Johnson ~ Life Mbr. NABS
Date: Sat, 07 Apr 2001 08:51:21 -0700
, Hemfir is a timber products term for a combination of western hemlock,
white fir ,grand fir ,silver fir etc, they call it "white woods." Considered to
Most of the high grade western cedar lumber comes from virgin forests in
British Columbia, most of which has been cut or protected in the US. Its used
Cedar 2X4's and 2X6's are used all over for decks and outdoor projects and is always priced higher than douglas fir.
Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2001 11:55:49 -0400
Gary, et al,
The chief commercial use of pine (White Pine) up here is for fine interior finish, never for framing. The best grade is #1 (clear) which has almost no knots. I use #2 for my houses, the same grade with sound knots that is often milled into the so-called "Knotty Pine" interior paneling (sp?). #3 pine has many knots and checks, many of which are not sound. Usually pine is sold in the 3/4" dimension, though the heavier 5/4" is becoming popular for certain purposes.
Most dimension framing lumber sold here(2x4,2x6,2x8,2x10,etc.) is Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), though it often comes mixed with Fir (Abies balsamea), hence the trade name 'hemfir.' I can guarantee that if you buy a 2x4 here it will NOT be pine unless you specify that you WANT it in pine, i.e. White Pine. In most NH yards you can't buy a pine 2x4 unless you have it custom-planed for you from rough stock.
The spruces (Picea), cedars, (Thuja and Juniperus), larches (Larix), and Yews (Taxus) are in another ball-park altogether. I think this trade-name 'hemfir' is a lot like the trade-name 'scrod' in the fish- market. There's no such fish as a 'scrod.' It's used to refer to a number of white-fleshed fish, usually cod or haddock and usually young.
Bruce Burdett, NH Bluebird Conspiracy, Sunapee NH
Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2001 12:21:09 EDT
Concerning cedar, In Pennsylvania cedar IS about money, meaning that cedar is
one of the most expensive woods to purchase. I can purchase 3/4 or 5/4
Another correction about cedar, to say that it is used only for ornamental projects like siding, fencing, and nest boxes is NOT correct. IT CAN BE USED STRUCTURALLY, 2x4s, 2x6s or whatever, But most people could not afford it. I work in construction and we are currently building very expensive retirement apartments $300,000.00 plus. They are using 6 x 6 clear cedar post for deck support. And for front porches on the units. I was told a 6x6 x 10 ft. piece of cedar (clear) sells for $120.00. The deck bards are 1x6x5/4 cedar which definitely cost more that the pressure treated yellow pine, that most people use in our area for decks. There are other areas where they are using 1x10 and 1x12 cedar to box in some beams. . . . . I have saved the scraps from that and have made several BB boxes with them.
I don't know enough about the effects of cedar on the Bluebirds to comment on
that. (I'm only Bluebirding for 2 yrs.) But if I had a preference, cedar is
One of the cheapest types of lumber in our area is "surfaced one side" pine which is available 7/8 thick.
Our Home Depot here in Lancaster does not carry ANY cedar. I asked they why and their response was "We do not have room for it and it is expensive."
Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2001 19:15:37 -0700
Well, folks, I got BEAUTIFUL clear red cedar at my employer, who just happens to be the world's largest home improvement store and it was priced about $2 higher per board than similar sized white pine. But the difference is SO much more than the price!
When we were replacing the old boxes on Wednesday, I could not keep from
running my hands over the roofs and sides. My fellow volunteer who built
Now, all of you are saying, "Pretty? Who cares about that?" Well, I do and I
think the birds do, too. Whenever we have put up new boxes, those are the
I have all Peterson boxes since this is the style I started with when I inherited the trail and we have had excellent results with that style. Since I monitor 600 acres and all the species that inhabit them, I don't have the time to change out boxes and compare styles the way many of you do so I stick with the "tried and true".
I can, though, do something most of you can't and that is measure the effects of burning on choice of boxes. We have boxes on both sides of a horse trail and this is a natural firebreak when we burn. Since I believe that we are now back on a regular burn schedule, I can begin a study that I had planned to do before we were forced to suspend the burns and that is to try to measure whether the birds prefer burned or unburned areas. It will take several years to form any conclusions so stay tuned!
Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2001 09:18:15 -0400
I am forwarding this Message to all as Frank probably intended but sent it only to me...
----- Original Message -----
from Frank Navratil, North Riverside,IL (suburb of Chicago)
From: "Ernie Tucker" ernie724"at"citlink.net
I've been checking our nest box daily since M&FBB decided to check their old box at least once a day. This morning I foiund a layer of grass in the bottom, so I would say they're starting their second nest.
I also put up a new nest box at the other end of the house, facing the back yard, and out of sight of the first house. Distance is about 80 feet. We'll just have to see what happens. A point of interest, I made the box, and when I went to my local lumber store (Lowe's) I found cedar more closely met my needs - and it was about the same price as pine. Also it was rough cut on one side so I could put that rough wood on the inside of the front so the nestlings could climb up to the hole. I used Bruce Burdett's plan with no problems.
Ernie & Jane Tucker
From: "Bonnie A. Yeager" dement"at"frognet.net
Below is an article I found on the PMCA (Purple Martin Conservation Association) web site.
From: Louise C louise"at"purplemartin.org Edinboro PA
Here's the Purple Martin Conservation Association's position and history on cedar shavings. The PMCA conducted a four-year study to determine the effects of nest parasites on the reproductive success of Purple Martins. Over the course of the study, 2 identical martin houses placed 15 feet apart were monitored. Each year, one house was treated to remove all parasites from the nests, and the second house was left untreated as a control. The results showed that the treated house fledged almost twice the number of young as the control house. Clearly, one way to help martins was to reduce the number of nest parasites, without exposing the martins and their nestlings to any potentially harmful substances, such as Sevin. (Sevin may work beautifully in the short term in reducing nest parasite populations, but research suggests that its continued use will result in long-term toxicity that may affect breeding success in the birds. In other words, it will get rid of the parasites now, but the birds will suffer from poor reproductive rates later on.) It's important to remember that the goal we all have in mind is to help the martins fledge as many healthy young as possible, not to eliminate every last nest parasite. Lice spend their entire life cycle on the birds; the targets here are fleas, nest mites, blowfly larvae, and bedbugs, all of which take blood meals from the birds, and spend most of their time burrowed down in the nest debris. The simplest and most direct method of controlling nest parasites is nest replacement (removing all nest material about 10 days after young hatch. Replace with bed of clean dry shavings or pine needles. Put nestlings back in nest. This one replacement may be sufficient to knock parasite numbers down for the rest of the nestling period, but in areas where blowflies are a problem, a second replacement when young reach 17-20 days old may be necessary.) The PMCA tested the martins' preference, and found they prefer a compartment or gourd that contains shavings or other nest material to an empty compartment. So the purposes of using cedar shavings are, to provide insulation against cool spring weather, to save the martins time by giving them a prebuilt nest, to repel nest parasites, and to allow for nest parasite control, via nest replacements. The PMCA has used cedar shavings for six years (this will be the seventh year), other landlords (Andy Troyer, for one) for nite years, with 2000 being the tenth year. No ill effects have been observed in the young or adults. Andy did find, however, that cedar shavings significantly reduced blowfly parasitism at his site. We will continue to test cedar shavings, and other types of bedding. For all of the purposes listed above, though, (except parasite repellency) any type of wood shavings will do just as well as cedar. Hardwood shavings, such as aspen or poplar, are suggested by a US Fish & Wildlife health center; shavings from treated lumber and hemlock are toxic to birds, and should not be used. The wildlife health center could not find any data on problems from the use of cedar shavings in bird boxes. Aspen shavings are the only wood shavings product approved by the FDA and EPA for use by humans and animals. EPA data also confirmed that cedar shavings may be effective in repelling blowflies. When questions arose about the safety of cedar shavings for martin nests, we researched the topic as thoroughly as we could. Both the Environmental Protection Agency, and a wildlife toxicologist at the US Fish & Wildlife Lab in Patuxent, MD, found no data showing cedar shavings were toxic or harmful to birds. They commented that the only way to determine toxicity for sure was to do specific tests, exposing Purple Martins to vapors from cedar shavings, then destroying the birds, and analyzing them for signs of reaction to the cedar. No one has done such tests, but they did find cedar listed as being effective as a blowfly repellent. The EPA reported that cedar is exempted from registration as a pesticide as it poses no risk to people or the environment, unlike naphthalene, Sevin, etc. Contrary to what has been published on other forums, Naphthalene (the compound in moth balls) is not a component of cedar shavings. What is found in cedar is Cedrene and Cedrol. Extracts from cedar (and other softwoods, such as pine) are in the broad category of aromatic or volatile compounds such as hydrocarbons (naphthalene, which is classified as a phenol, is also a member, but a distinct compound), cedrene. Symptoms of overexposure to cedar shavings include respiratory tract infections, sneezing, and discharge from eyes/nostrils. We have observed none of these symptoms at the PMCA site, nor have other landlords using cedar reported them Another factor to consider is that we place cedar shavings in compartments in early April, just when the martins are due to return here. By the time the first young hatch in June, and vapors from the shavings have long since evaporated. We have suggested that landlords can use aromatic cedar in the house to begin with, and use other types of shavings, or dried pine needles, for changes after the young have hatched. Nestlings would be more susceptible to any vapors than the adults, so this method would minimize nestling exposure to any irritants from the shavings. But for one-time use early in the season, cedar shavings would be thoroughly aired out by the time the young hatch. But, PMCA research participant Andy Troyer uses fresh aromatic cedar shavings on all his nest replacements, as do other landlords, and have experience very good success rates. Reproductive success and return rates from PMCA-monitored sites strongly suggest that cedar shavings do not cause problems. Used in conjunction with nest replacement at some sites, and with one time use early in the spring at control sites, we have documented 95.5% success rates (hatch to fledge.) This is a statistically significant higher than average success rate for our region. Furthermore, since all nestlings and many adults at PMCA-monitored sites are individually color banded, we have been able to collect data on the survivorship of nestlings returning to their natal area as subadults the following spring. These rates (20-30% of the nestling Purple Martins that we banded are observed back as subadults) also strongly suggest that the use of cedar shavings is not having any ill effects on the birds. The return rate is twice the published norm return rate of banded young to their natal site. Also, throughout their evolutionary history, Purple Martins have nested in cedar trees, preadapting them to any potentially-harmful vapors. It is not a bad thing to be cautious about using new materials or management ideas. Our goal, ultimately, is to impact the martins in a positive way. Based on the data the PMCA has been collecting, using cedar shavings and nest replacement are resulting in higher than average success rates. We will continue to collect information on cedar shavings, and to try new ideas. This year, we are planning to use soft, dried pine needles in 1/2 the compartments, on the recommendation of Dr. Thomas B. Dellinger, who has found they maintain a better nest bowl shape than shavings, and that they drain more quickly after a rain. Offering compartments with both cedar shavings and pine needles will allow the PMCA to compare results, and share them in the Update and other forums for martin enthusiasts.
what is the best material for boxes...Does pine breathe as well as cedar????
I'm getting confused .Pine i hear is not bug resistant as cedar then i hear that cedar shavings are bad, if thats so, how come cedar houses are good..besides weathering well how can they be good..Then i hear pine has sap...I have the woodlink houses which i find roof is not long enough and the coveside are nice but are made of good pine. I want the best for my bluebirds.
From: "Larry Zapotocky" larryz22"at"hotmail.com
I wouldn't worry about the cedar or pine nestbox issue personally.
Last year myself and two others fledged over 120 bluebirds and over 20 tree swallows from both cedar and pine nestboxes. I like the cedar because of what I stated earlier:
1. More user friendly on the woodworking tools (no sap or pitch build up)
I made a bunch of pine boxes because I didn't have any cedar and I wanted to get them up A.S.A.P. When those pine boxes start to crack and show signs of damage, I will replace them with the cedar boxes.
I have had no problems with cedar hurting the birds.
In my opinion, if you want the best for your birds, go with a cedar house. Cedar shavings are made from aromatic cedar and the cedar you buy at the local home center is not.
Regardless, put a home up for your birds and follow some of the plans on the NABS web site: http://www.nabluebirdsociety.org/
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