The Birdhouse Man: Turns Throwaways into Prime Avian Real Estate

Jerry Stanback is a boxer and a birdhouse builder and has his work on display at the Southern Pines Welcome Center.

Stanback’s birdhouses tantalize the eye, delight the sensibilities. They are created from nothing and everything — a log he sees lying beside the road, a pot, a PVC pipe, a can, scrap lumber. In one, an old golf shoe forms the nesting area. In another, two kettles attached at the bottom form an avian duplex that resembles a Martian but attracts martins. A silver-plated pitcher becomes chickadee’s Buckingham Palace and an umbrella stand, a skyscraper. Perches were once drawer pulls, door handles, kitchen utensils. Words fail his prize examples: a multi-story, multi-family bird dwelling with a mother-in-law suite in the back, also a giant metal vat roomy enough for a flock.

“Once I saw a dogwood tree that had been cut down at what used to be Southern Pines Middle School,” Stanback says. “I made eight birdhouses from it and donated it back to the school.”

“Folk artist” follows a long line of titles beginning with Pinecrest High School football star (1977-78) with the opportunity for college or semi-pro. Jerry worked construction, participated in boxing (his true avocation), excelled at karate and tae kwon do (second degree black belt).

One of 15 children, Stanback, now a grandfather, lives with and cares for his 94-year-old mother.

His current employment at Aberdeen Public Works in recycling collection provides a trove of materials for his birdhouses.

“You wouldn’t believe what people throw away,” he says.

“When visitors to the Welcome Center catch sight of Jerry’s birdhouses they are surprised, then captivated by his imaginative designs and clever recycling of ordinary household items,” says Suzanne Coleman, Jerry’s mentor and president of Welcome to Southern Pines. “They love his story and connection to the train station.”

“The idea for birdhouses came to me while I was hitting the (punching) bag in my back yard,” Stanback recalls. “Just looking at the birds relaxed me. One was so cute, he had a worm.”

Stanback’s only experience at small-goods carpentry was making wagons from wood scraps with his older brothers, when they were kids.

Once the artist emerged from its boxer camouflage, he began haunting yard and estate sales, the Coalition and Habitat outlets. His best materials were free, skimmed from recycle and trash trucks.

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