Backyard birding has been around a lot longer than you may have thought, as American colonists attracted birds with clay “bird bottles” placed under the eaves or near the windows of their homes. Though it’s tempting to attribute their use to an enthusiasm for bird watching, these bird bottles likely served a more practical purpose – insect control.
Fragments of early bird bottles were excavated at an archeological dig in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. The artifacts show that these early bird bottles were wide-mouthed red clay bird houses about 8 1/2 inces long, and were mounted beneath eaves on the walls of houses, taverns and stables.
Resembling a pitcher mounted horizontally on the wall, these early bird bottles featured a 3-inch wide and 3-inch deep entry hole and a 5-inch tall nesting cavity. The bird bottle had a tab with a small hole at the base of the entry area, that was intended to hold a twig to encourage small birds to perch and linger.
These early bird bottles were apparently quite popular in 18th-century Williamsburg, and were likely sold at merchant John Burdett’s Williamsburg store, as bird bottles are listed in his inventory ledger and in his advertisement in the town’s local newspaper the Virginia Gazette.
Inspired by these early bird bottles, New England Birdhouse’s Colonial Bird Bottle is an update of the 18th century original. Handmade exclusively for New England Birdhouse by New Hampshire artisan potter Great Bay Pottery, the Colonial Bird Bottle has improved bird-friendly features like smaller entry holes to dissuade predators, a roomier 6-inch nesting cavity, and drainage holes for the safety of the nestlings. It has a tab with a small hole for a twig perch and a large opening in the back of the bottle for easy clean out. It mounts easily on a screw or nail, and mounting instructions are included.
Bird bottles provide nest sites for several cavity-nesting birds that eat large quantities of insects. House Wrens or Sparrows will likely be the first to investigate the bird bottle, with other cavity nesting birds such as a Chickadee considering it as a nest site as well.
The Colonial Bird Bottle is hand thrown on a potter’s wheel and then painted and glazed by a New England artisan. It is fully functional, bird-safe and an attractive decorative addition to any style home – especially for those wanting to keep a Colonial-style house historically accurate.
The Colonial Bird Bottle can be personalized with a custom decoration, lettering or sketch. They make a perfect one-of-a-kind gift (wedding, bridal shower, baby shower, anniversary, birthday, christening, graduation or historic building dedication).