Complete Bird Nesting Boxes Guide
Can you imagine your garden without birdsong? Without the flitting of small birds? Without them hopping about the lawn and pulling up worms? Garden bird numbers are declining and if we don’t help them find safety, soon they could be gone entirely.
Bird nesting boxes are becoming increasingly crucial to the survival of garden birds. Small and affordable, they provide exceptionally safe places for birds to lay and bring up their offspring. Without adequate nesting, the birds in your garden will be unable to nest safely or produce surviving chicks. Let’s help save our garden birds!
Wild birds, especially garden birds, struggle every year to build nests in safe places and the more urbanised their area becomes, the harder it is to achieve. Bird nests were once created in the thick safety of hedgerows or in the heights of forests, but these landscapes are disappearing faster than the birds can keep up.
Q. Will birds use a nesting box?
A. Garden birds are sharp-eyed little creatures and they’re on the look out for nesting places early each spring and summer (many can lay multiple times throughout spring and summer). Bird nesting boxes aren’t just used to raise young in however, in cold winters, many small birds use these cosy boxes to sleep in and stay warm.
Hole-nesting birds such as members of the tit family, sparrows, house martins, nuthatches and robins just to name a few, look for holes in old trees to nest in. However, these are getting few and far between and these birds will immediately lay claim to an empty bird nesting box.
Q. What type of bird nesting box do I need?
A. The type of nesting box or boxes that you’ll need will depend on the species you’re hoping to help. If you have lots of species of garden bird in your area, then you can put up several nesting boxes and place them around different spots in your garden or on your house.
Let’s take a look at the common types:
- Small hole bird nesting boxes – These are probably what you typically think of when some says the word ‘bird box’. These little wooden houses have small, round holes in the upper half and little roofs over the top to shelter the entrance from rain. A 25mm hole is excellent for small garden birds like bluetits and robins while a 32mm hole suits sparrows and woodpeckers better.
- Open front bird nesting boxes – Robins and wrens amongst others prefer open fronted nesting boxes and having one of these is an excellent way to attract these small birds.
- Multiple nest boxes – Some species, like sparrows, like to nest near each other and multi-nest boxes are a great way to encourage sparrows and starlings. These birds like to nest under eaves of houses and sheds, so placing multi-nest boxes there will provide them with happy homes.
- Bird-specific nest boxes – House martins and swallows like to make nests close up under eaves and in doorways and you can buy specific nest boxes for these birds that are perfectly sized for them. A good example of this is the Wildlife World Ceramic House Martin Bowl
- Bird of Prey nesting boxes – Small garden birds aren’t the only ones struggling for safe nesting spots. With a decline in old trees and old growth forests, owls and kestrels also make keen use of larger nesting boxes.
Things to consider when choosing a bird nesting box
Bird nesting boxes are used:
- By birds to lay eggs in and feed young
- By small birds to roost in during winter, sometimes many birds to a box
- By small animals to hibernate in during winter
The main dangers to nesting birds are:
- Other birds making nests in the same box
- Other birds preying on eggs and young for food
- Predators such as stoats, weasels, squirrels, cats and rats
- Badly placed boxes such as those that sit in harsh sunshine or facing inclement weather
When choosing a bird nesting box there are a number of things you need to consider. If you’re prepared and know which boxes suit whom and where to place them, then come spring your garden will erupt with life and you can watch the extraordinary behaviours of parent birds and their young, knowing that you’ve given them the opportunity to thrive.
Here’s the important things to considers:
- Species – Sparrows and starlings are suffering a severe decline at the moment and buying boxes that suit these species and placing them high under the eaves of your house will give them safe places to nest. When looking at individual bird boxes, the product description should give clear guidelines for species and positioning. Bluetits and other small tits need small hole bird boxes and nuthatches will resize the hole slightly before building up a mud entrance that perfectly fits only their bodies! Remember that many birds may come back year after year.
- Decorations and perches – Small birds don’t need perches to get into their own bird boxes and these instead encourage predators – often larger- as it gives them something to grip to. The RSPB and us here at Garden Birdlife recommend that you don’t buy a small bird nesting box with perches or decorations. Owl boxes are slightly different, and come with platforms for their fledglings.
- Placement – Placement of your bird nesting boxes is crucial to the birds that might consider them but also important when you’re buying the boxes. If you only have low walls and no trees, then you’ll need a bird nesting box that is designed to be attached to a house wall or under an eave, for instance. Open fronted nesting boxes for birds such as robins, must be kept out of sight behind shrubs to prevent them from becoming easy targets to predators.
- Cameras – It’s actually illegal to tamper or disturb in-use bird nests, even if they’re nesting in a box you’ve placed. Only those with licenses may inspect nests and so the best way to see the extraordinary things going on inside your birds’ nest is to get a tiny, specially designed camera. These aren’t that expensive but it’s best to keep it in mind when you buy your bird box so you can get one that fits.
- Extra security – Metal plates can be bought to fit around the entrance holes on bird boxes and are very useful if you have a garden frequented by squirrels. Without the metal plate, squirrels will gnaw their way into the box.
Choosing a bird nesting box doesn’t need to be difficult and most people are happy to put up a standard, small-hole nesting box for typical small garden birds like bluetits. If you’re a true bird lover and dedicated to helping prevent the decline of garden birds then it’s a great idea to get an open-fronted bird nesting box, a small-hole nesting box and a multi-nest box and affix them in different places around your garden and home.
- Note what species the box is designed for and place accordingly.
- Never disturb a nesting box when it’s in use. Even opening it when adults are building the nest can scare them away completely.
- Never use insect repellent on the box.
- Try not to use boxes with decoration or perches as these give predators something to hold on to and the birds using the box don’t need it.
- Face boxes away from harsh sunlight (for instance, place the box facing north instead of south).
- Sit back and enjoy watching birds build nests and raise offspring!
Best Small Hole Bird Nesting Box
Scott & Co Wooden Bird Nest Box. x 4Scott & Co Wooden Bird Nest Box. x 4
This four pack of small-hole bird nesting boxes is perfect to get you started. Ideal if you have a good sized garden, these can be placed on trees, fences, walls and sheds. Remember to spread them out, as the small birds that use them don’t want close neighbours.
Made from FSC certified timber, these are plain and simple bird nesting boxes that will provide a safe haven for your roosting and laying garden birds. No perches or decoration crowd the entrance or attract predators and the overhanging roof will help protect the entryway from rain.
Kick-start your garden nest building and help protect vulnerable small birds each winter, spring and summer.
Best Open Fronted Bird Nesting Box
Chapelwood Robin Nest BoxChapelwood Robin Nest Box
Robins and flycatchers are big fans of open fronted nesting boxes and this Chaplewood box is an ideal example. These must be placed on walls or fences behind shrubs otherwise the risk being attacked by predators.
This box is made from FSC certified pine and has 15mm walls to protect birds from the worst of the cold. High quality and durable, this should give birds safety and you the knowledge that you’re helping out, year after year.
Best Multi-Nest Bird Nesting Box
Chapelwood Sparrow TerraceChapelwood Sparrow Terrace
Another Chaplewood design, this sparrow nesting box has three separate nests inside with 32mm holes – perfect for sparrows. Again, it has 15mm walls for added insulation and is FSC wood treated with bird-friendly treatments to ensure its longevity and safety.
Exceptionally well made, this is ideally suited to being placed high up on a house or shed wall under an eave and if you put it up in early spring you’ll have sparrows checking it out within days.
See the complete range of Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders