Mar 24, 2021 | Featured Web Article

Building a Better Bird House

There are many reasons why a nest box might not be used. Discover tips to provide housing birds need and prefer!
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Tips to provide housing birds need and prefer.

An excerpt from A Guide to Bird Homes, a special publication from Bird Watcher's Digest. Order your copy today from Redstart Birding »

Whether you buy your nest boxes at a store or nature center, or build them from scratch, there are certain characteristics your housing should have to best suit the needs of nesting birds. Here are some recommendations for nest box basics:

  1. The lumber used should be untreated and at least 3/4-inch thick to protect nests from spring chills and summer heat. Exterior plywood, cedar, and pine work well.
  2. Do not paint or stain the inside of the box. If you paint or stain the outside of the box, use a light earth tone color so sunlight and heat will be reflected, not absorbed.
  3. Perches on the front of a nest box are not necessary. All cavity nesters have strong feet and can easily cling to vertical wooden surfaces. Perches only give easy access to house sparrows, starlings, and predators.
  4. Use galvanized screws to assemble the nest box. It will last years longer than one built with nails or with glue, which will rapidly disintegrate as the wood warps and shrinks.
  5. Your access to the inside of the nest box should be easy for nest inspections and box maintenance. The best box designs feature a side or front panel that can be swung up or out to gain access to the inside.
  6. The roof of the nest box should extend well over the entrance hole to protect the opening from driving rain and predators.
  7. The inside front panel of the box should be deeply scored below the hole to give emerging birds a ladder for exiting the box.
  8. The floor of the nest box should have at least four 3/8-inch drain holes so the box can drain if it does get wet. The floor should be recessed (as shown at left) so that no end grain is exposed to soak up water in wet weather.
  9. Ventilation holes near the top allow excess heat to escape. Plug holes with weather-stripping putty in cold weather.
  10. The nest box should be protected from predators. The best way to protect your nest boxes is to mount them on poles with a predator baffle in place below the box. (Learn how to construct a baffle here).

About Scott Shalaway

Scott Shalaway holds a Ph.D. in wildlife biology and works as a full-time freelance nature writer and syndicated columnist. He also holds a weekly radio show on nature. He has studied cavity-nesting birds for more than 30 years.

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