A home fit for a bird

Spring is a busy season for many species of birds, as they begin the breeding season and start nesting. It is also a busy time for the Laptuote workshop in Lappeenranta, Finland, where workers are building birdhouses as part of a community employment programme supported by UPM’s Kaukas mills.

Come spring, it is the perfect time to hang up a birdhouse, with many bird species including Starlings and Tits looking for suitable nests. With the birds busy preparing for the mating season, this gives birdwatchers the opportunity to use birdhouses to observe their feathered friends up close. But, says Jan Södersved, communication officer from BirdLife Finland, there is no reason to be disappointed if a birdhouse doesn’t get a winged tenant on the first try.

“Sometimes it takes a year for the birds to feel confident about a new area and they will try again next year,” he explains.

That’s because birds need to be really sure about the suitability of a potential nest, considering it for factors such as safety and comfort, before they finally decide to call it home.

“The male hops around the branches by the birdhouse, makes fly-bys and enters the birdhouse several times to check the interior,” adds Södersved. “Only when the bird is confident with its decision will it invite the female to hear it singing high praises of the new home from a branch next to the nest.”

Promoting biodiversity with birdhouses

Birdhouses play an essential role in promoting biodiversity in the forests, especially in countries like Finland. The bird species which choose to nest in holes have fewer opportunities to find natural nests, as Finnish forests tend to be mostly coniferous. A deciduous forest, on the other hand, has more holes and cracks in the tree trunks that the birds can use for nests. In one experiment conducted by the University of Turku, birdhouses were mounted to trees in a coniferous forest, and as a result, the number of nesting birds in that area doubled.

UPM’s Kaukas mills, which are located in Lappeenranta, have for two years in a row purchased hundreds of birdhouses made by the local Laptuote foundation. The raw timber used to manufacture the birdhouses is donated by the sawmill and UPM Kaukas use the birdhouses as prizes in draws and competitions.

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(image: Mikko Nikkinen, Storymakers)

This year too, raw timber from the Kaukas sawmill has been delivered to Laptuote, with work coaches Janne Laakkonen and Kaisa Kostamo in charge of ensuring that 350 metres of pine planks are turned into nearly 150 bird houses.

“We are going to make five different types of birdhouses, fit for several types of birds,” says Kostamo, who has worked at the Laptuote workshop for 22 years. “We are delighted to note that in the order from UPM, there is an order for birdhouses for endangered species of birds as well.”

Engaging with local communities

When it comes to the birdhouses, everything is designed down to the last detail, starting from ventilation, roof eaves, easy maintenance and a perfectly measured door for the future inhabitants. However, Laakkonen says that in building the birdhouses, he tries to not guide the young workers too much, as he wants people to learn how to think and plan their work independently.

This cooperation with the Laptuote foundation is also a way for UPM to interact even more closely with the local community. Each year, the foundation offers work experience and apprenticeships to about 90 people who otherwise have difficulties finding employment in the open job market. These people include immigrants, persons with disabilities and other marginalised groups. The birdhouses are mostly made by youth who have faced challenges in pursuing traditional education routes.

“Many young people working here have had difficulties in ordinary schools. However, when they come here, we discover that they have an incredible three-dimensional vision and can create amazing objects with their hands,” says Kostamo.

“Often when youngsters come here, they are terrified of mistakes. I want to teach these boys and girls that it is ok to learn from what you do,” emphasises Laakkonen. “In woodwork, you can reach the same result in many different ways. It is very creative.”


Text: Anna Gustafsson

Main image: Pixabay


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