As nesting season approaches, many of us will buy or build nesting boxes to put up in our gardens, to encourage the birds to settle there.
“By installing birdhouses, you replace habitat that no longer exists, replicating holes in trees or nooks and crannies in old buildings, creating living space for birds,” says Helen Moffat of the RSPB (rspb.org.uk).
“It can also give you great entertainment – a chance to watch the garden soap opera of the birds’ comings and goings, with hopefully some pretty baby birds taking their first flight at the end of it all.”
As National Birdhouse Week approaches, there are things gardeners can do to entice birds to use birdhouses, which very much depends on where they are located and the types of birdhouses we install. , whether it’s an open-fronted box for robins, thrushes and flycatchers, a classic type with a hole for blue tits, or a tea chest for an owl.
Be an early riser
“The sooner you put them in, the better. Some birds are already scouting out the best spots now,” says Moffat. The main nesting season lasts from March to August.
Where to place a birdhouse?
Think about how high you place it – boxes for chickadees, sparrows or starlings should be fixed 2-4 meters from a tree or wall, while swifts should be as high as possible, advises Moffat.
“Try not to put them too close together, as most species don’t like close neighbors – this can be too much competition for food. Sparrows are the exception and will happily live close to each other. ‘other sparrows.’
Birder Dan Rouse, author of How To Attract Birds To Your Garden (DK), says: “Place them in a northeasterly direction to prevent strong winds from entering the hole, and you shouldn’t have any too much rain in there either.” . Alternatively, put them where they have shelter, so they can face in any direction. Tilt the box slightly forward so that the rain can run off the roof.
Also, make sure there’s a clear flight and it’s away from where cats or other predators might roost and get in, Moffat adds.
Does the style of birdhouse make a difference?
“Yes. Boxes with holes should be about 4 feet off the ground to deter cats and provide birds with an unobstructed flight path in and out of the box,” says Rouse. “Open-fronted boxes can be anywhere between 3 and 7 feet off the ground, popping them where there is cover.
“Robins love boxes on a shed or hidden in ivy, anything that has extra camouflage,” Rouse adds. “If you have trees, you can attach a box to them, as long as there is a clear flight path. Or you can put them on a garden wall, a fence, or even your house itself or a balcony , if you store them inside a north- or east-facing wall.”
You can make your own boxes (there is advice on how to do this on the RSPB website) but whether you do this or buy them, be sure of the quality of the item, notes Moffat : “The thickness of the wood provides warmth for the birds. and can make the difference in surviving a colder spring. A box that looks nice but isn’t waterproof is an ornament, not a home.
How about hiding them in trees or shrubs?
Rouse suggests, “You can buy roost pockets, which are natural-looking oval baskets to put in the hedge for finches or robins to nest in.”
Does the color of the birdhouse make a difference?
“Birds aren’t picky about color,” Rouse adds, “although it depends on the species. For your typical garden bird like blue tits, great tits and house sparrows, they’re not picky du everything, but the further you go, if you want to attract, for example, swamp tits or willow tits, they will need specialized covers to make them look like trees.”
Where should you avoid planting a birdhouse?
Rouse advises keeping nesting boxes away from bird feeders: “Many people make the mistake of having their bird feeders a foot or two from their nesting box. Birds defend their territories, so if you place a feeding station next to a birdhouse, the birds won’t be inclined to use it as territory because they know there are so many birds visiting.”
What types of birds prefer specific types of nest boxes?
Moffat says, “Robins like an open-fronted box, while blue tits prefer a small entry hole, which will keep other larger birds out. barns, cups for swallows and house swallows and larger boxes if you have owls or birds of prey in your garden.
“It’s also important if you already have boxes in your garden to make sure they’re clean at the start of the nesting season and ready for their next inhabitant.”
Nest boxes with larger holes may attract starlings, a declining red-listed species, Rouse adds.
Should I put something in the birdhouse to attract the birds?
“Leave it empty and when they find it, they’ll shape it to their liking,” says Rouse. “Some species of birds will back off if they see there’s material in there already.”
National Nestbox Week runs from February 14-21. For more details, visit nestboxweek.com