Endangered birds find refuge with new homes in Village Park

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Eagle Scout Andrew Ferrante's birdhouse occupied by birds in Cranbury.PHOTO COURTESY OF CRANBURY BOY SCOUT TROOP 52
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Birds nesting in one of the birdhouses located at Village Park in Cranbury. PHOTO COURTESY OF CRANBURY BOY SCOUT TROOP 52
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Eagle Scout Andrew Ferrante's birdhouse occupied by birds in Cranbury.PHOTO COURTESY OF CRANBURY BOY SCOUT TROOP 52
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Birds nesting in one of the birdhouses located at Village Park in Cranbury. PHOTO COURTESY OF CRANBURY BOY SCOUT TROOP 52

A village of birdhouses have become new additions to Village Park after Eagle Scout Andrew Ferrante decided to help endangered bird populations repopulate in Cranbury.

Ferrante hopes to help reverse the trend of bird populations continued decline across North America. Joined by other Boy Scouts in Troop 52 he created the Birdhouse Village geared toward aiding those endangered and threatened birds in the Middlesex County region of New Jersey.

This new birdhouse village features nest boxes for house wrens, chickadees, nuthatches, and warbles; and in the future will include two nest shelves for American robins and swallows; along with a screech owl box. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has halted safe building and hanging of the nest shelves and screech owl box.

“Most, if not all, of the planning was done in 2019, but actually building the birdhouses was in 2020. February of 2020 is when we started putting the birdhouses together,” he said. “I ended up building 14 of the nest boxes, one nest shelf, and one partial prototype of an owl box. I only put up the nest boxes so far.”

The constructed homes are placed on trees and will help bird species to reproduce.

“I had seen an article about the declining bird population and have always been quite interested in birds,” Ferrante said. “I figured what I could do to help that issue was have my Eagle Scout project be building these homes to help the populations grow back. So far birds are living in seven of the 14 nest boxes.”

He was surprised that half of the homes had been occupied by birds already, because in the first month after the initial bird houses were placed in the park not a single bird had nested in the one of the birdhouses.

“I was concerned there for a decent amount of time that all of this effort would go to waste,” Ferrante said.

Outside of coming to the aid of birds, Ferrante had another goal in mind: achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. To earn this rank Boy Scouts must lead a service project showcasing leadership and thorough planning.

“You are also doing service hours along the way for the other ranks below Eagle, but to achieve the rank of Eagle you need to lead an Eagle Scout service project. You have to put a whole proposal in that is close to 30 pages long,” said Tim Brennan, Boy Scout Troop 52 scoutmaster. “It basically is the culminating project for your boy scout career. About 3-4% of boys actually get to that point.”

Ferrante would be one of them to earn that distinction when he received the rank of Eagle Scout in a Zoom-format Board of Review on July 16.

“Eagle Scout is the highest rank in scouting and the project is a process that involves a lot of leadership and planning. He learned, and so did the other scouts, about the birds’ nesting habits. For example, a quarter-inch difference with circular hole can determine what bird goes into what birdhouse to nest,” Brennan said. “The birdhouses are just phenomenal.”

Ferrante led more than five Boy Scouts in three sessions. Two session were focused on building the nest boxes with the group of scouts and the third session was spent hanging the boxes up in park. By early March all 14 nest boxes were set up for birds to take refuge.

“I am very pleased with how it turned out and how the project ended up as it is now – a birdhouse village. I’m also pleased with the nest shelf and owl boxes, but I am a bit sad that I cannot put them up with help of the Boy Scouts and get the supplies due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” he said. “Once everything is safe I plan to place the two nest shelves and the one screech owl box on trees in the park.”

Cranbury Boy Scout Troop 52 has had more than 100 Boy Scouts reach the rank of Eagle Scout in its 75-year history with several service projects still utilized in 2020. Brennan added that learned leadership skills are long term goals for these projects.

“I started this project because I had the idea that I could help birds. Through a lot of planning and building I was able to make that come true.” Ferrante said.