When a series of huge bushfires ravaged the Australian countryside this year and last, an enormous number of naturally occurring tree hollows were destroyed - a wide variety of birds, along with other small animals, make their homes in such hollows.
Putting up traditional wooden nesting boxes would certainly be helpful but they're not nearly as insulated as the hollows, so they provide little protection from the midday heat. Furthermore, the lifespan of a wooden bird box is typically no more than about 10 years so would need to be continuously replaced.
Realising these limitations, scientists at Australia's Charles Stuart University have created 3D-printed plastic nesting boxes that are similar in size, shape and appearance to natural tree hollows. They feature a double-walled design that gives them thermal insulating qualities much like those of their natural counterparts, and they should last at least as long as real tree hollows.
In field tests conducted so far, wild red-rumped parrots were found to readily accept the boxes as nesting sites. Plans now call for the devices to be mounted on trees throughout various regions of Australia, where they will be available to displaced birds or other animals. They will be manufactured out of 100 percent recycled plastic, starting later this year.
"With the recent bushfires, natural hollows are now vanishingly rare across entire regions and are in very high demand," says the lead scientist, Prof. David Watson. "At a time when we’re trying all kinds of different approaches to rebuild wildlife populations, large-scale installations of nest boxes and other artificial structures are a crucial element."
Bird Houses for your Roof: With 55% of the world’s population living in cities, it can be hard for urban wildlife to find a place to live. Dutch design agency Klaas Kuiken has come up with the idea for roof tiles that can provide a shelter for birds and roof insulation at the same time.