If you’re looking to attract birds to your backyard, installing a nest box is the way to go. Nest boxes provide birds with a safe place to raise their young, and they can also be a great source of entertainment for bird enthusiasts.
In this blog post, we will discuss how to attract birds to a nest box. We’ll cover everything from choosing the right location for your box to making it more appealing to birds. So read on for tips on how to make your backyard bird paradise.
Just remember that not all bird species will use a nest box. Garden birds, such as long-tailed tits, chaffinches, and goldfinches prefer to nest in bushes and trees. Cavity nest builders are more likely to use your nest boxes – they prefer holes and crevices in trees, and nest boxes mimic these spaces.
1) Set Up Several Nest Boxes
Birds are more likely to use a nest box if there is more than one available. This gives them the option to choose the nest box that best suits their needs and prevents overcrowding and competition. You can purchase multiple nest boxes, or you can build your own. Building your own nest box is a great way to save money if you’re handy with tools.
2) Use Nest Boxes That Attract Multiple Species
Many nest boxes will attract multiple species, while others are designed more for specific types of birds. Here are the most common nest boxes and the bird species they attract.
- Standard Nest Boxes – So-called standard nest boxes are available in all sizes, materials, and shapes. They are usually a box with a round hole for an entrance. 28-32mm holes attract the most common birds that use nest boxes – these include house sparrows, blue tits, and great tits. If you want to discourage sparrows, stick to the smaller sized hole.
- Open Nest Boxes – Not all birds like to nest inside a box – blackbirds and robins prefer an open platform. Open nest boxes give birds a surface on which to build their nests.
- Larger Nest Boxes – Of course, larger bird species also like to use nesting boxes. A larger box is an attractive space for jackdaws, kestrels, stock doves, and the occasional owl! Smaller birds may also move in.
- Specialist Nest Boxes – Some species, such as swallows and house martins, prefer nests made of mud and saliva. Providing them with a ready-made nest, such as a swallow cup, allows them to add a little bit to the nest and settle down quickly. You may find that they return year after year, delighted to find their old nest intact.
3) Position Your Box Well
Now, where to position a nest box? The position of your nest box is essential for two reasons. Firstly, you need to make sure the entrance hole is facing the correct direction. If it faces south, the sun will hit it all day and heat up the inside too much. If it faces west or east, there may not be enough sunlight to keep the babies warm enough. The best position for most nest boxes is northeast facing.
Secondly, you need to make sure your nest box is high enough off the ground. Again, this is for the safety of the baby birds. Too low, and a predator could easily reach in and snatch them away. Too high, and they may not be able to fledge (fly) properly when they’re ready to leave the nest. A good height is around four to six feet off the ground.
You also need to make sure your nest box is far enough away from any trees or bushes. If it’s too close, a predator could easily climb up and get to the babies. Around ten feet from any vegetation is usually best.
4) Allow a Clear Flight Path
When you’re positioning your nest box, you also need to make sure there’s a clear flight path leading up to it. If there are any branches or leaves in the way, the parents may not be able to find the entrance hole. They could also get tangled up and hurt themselves.
A clear flight path can protect the birds from predators, too. If a cat or other small mammal is lurking around, the parents will be able to see it coming and fly away to safety.
5) Accessorise Your Garden
Birds love gardens that have birdbaths and feeders – they can swoop in and have something to eat and drink. If they see that your garden is particularly hospitable, they’re more likely to stick around and take advantage of your nest boxes.
6) Leave Out Nesting Materials
Most birds will collect their own nesting material, but you can help them out by providing additional bits. A few shredded pieces of paper or cotton wool in the bottom of the nest box will give them a head start. Just make sure you don’t use anything synthetic, like polyester batting, as this can be harmful to the birds.
You could also put a handful of leaves or grass in the nest box before you install it. This will give the birds something to build their nest with and make it more comfortable for them.
7) Clean Your Nesting Boxes
You should clean out your nesting boxes at the end of each breeding season. This will remove any parasites or diseases that could harm the birds. It’s also a good opportunity to check the nest box for any damage and repair it if necessary.
To clean the nest box, simply remove the lid (or side panel) and reach in to pull out any old nesting material. Next, rinse the box with boiling water, then leave it to air dry before adding clean hay or wood shavings, and then put the lid back on.
Don’t forget to put your nesting boxes up early! Birds start looking for places to build their nests in late winter, so you want them to have plenty of time to find your garden and make themselves at home.
Putting up a nest box is a great way to help our feathered friends, and it’s not as difficult as you might think. Just remember to position the box well, leave some nesting material out, and clean it regularly. Soon you could have birds raising their young right in your own backyard.