Don't touch that empty bird's nest; get out the baking soda for old

Q Is it OK to take down birds' nests from trees in the winter to use as decoration, or will birds use them again the following year?

- A.A., Lexington, Mass.

A Actually, under federal law, it is illegal to disturb or take possession of a bird's nest, says Linda Cocca, natural history information coordinator for the Massachusetts Audubon Society.

"If there were an exception to the [Migratory Bird Act of 1918] - 'you can take a robin's nest but not a peregrine falcon's ' - it would be a lot harder to enforce," says Ms. Cocca.

Also, she adds, "The average person does not know which birds are likely to return to their nest the following spring." And during winter nights, "some birds use their nests to roost on to protect themselves from the cold and wind."

However, three nonnative, nonmigratory species are not protected under the federal law: the rock dove (pigeon), house sparrow, and European starling.

Q Can you tell me how to remove old wood odor from furniture?

- V.H., Daytona Beach, Fla.

A Andrea Martin of Antiques at 80 Charles in Boston suggests several methods to solve the problem of odoriferous furniture.

Thoroughly wet all inside surfaces of the furniture and then spread baking soda on them. If necessary, repeat. The more you ventilate the wood, the better, says Ms. Martin. Wiping the inside surfaces with a solution of one gallon of water and three tablespoons liquid chlorine bleach also should help.

As last resort, coat all bare wood with a water-based polyurethane varnish to seal in the odor.

Readers: Pose your questions and we'll seek out experts on home repairs, gardens, food, and family legal issues. Send queries to the Homefront Editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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