Bird houses, a time honored tradition for fowl of the air, can range from the simple to the divine, from small wooden boxes, feeders and nests to more extravagant mansions. Thomas Burke of Wilmington, DE, specializes in creating those extravagant bird homes.
Burke, a former furniture maker who created furniture from old barn beams, got into building bird houses when asked by a friend to build one. From there, word-of-mouth progressed so much he decided that building these homes was what he wanted to do.
Most of his projects are commissioned and those designs are inspired by the clients’ homes. For bird houses built for himself, Burke draws inspiration from the paintings of Andrew Wyeth, the 20th century realist painter whose work focused on land and people. He has built at least eight bird homes based on Wyeth’s paintings. Currently, 16 of his fine bird houses line the Wilmington, DE, River Front area.
All of Burke’s projects are manufactured from either 5/8- or 3/4-inch exterior plywood. The roof shingles for the bird homes are made from construction pallets, and most of the material is recycled, he says, even the paint, which he finds around his condo building after his neighbors have finished painting projects.
Burke’s work has been featured in many publications, including Architectural Digest, which is where one of his more famous clients became aware of his creations.
Filmmaker George Lucas and his girlfriend Mellody Hobson of Ariel Capital Management were sitting on the couch thumbing through the magazine, Burke says. When they came across his work Lucas commented, “This guy builds great bird houses.” Hobson decided to commission one for Lucas for Christmas. Designed and named after his Skywalker ranch, the house is approximately 9-feet tall, was built in three sections, including the roof and shipped across country to California to be installed.
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