National Nest Box Week 14th to 21st February 2018 aims to enhance biodiversity and conservation of our breeding birds and wildlife by encouraging everyone to put up nest boxes in their local area.
Anyone can take part by putting up a bird box in your garden, at school or in the community as a member of a local wildlife group. Although National Nest Box Week is 14th – 21st February you can put a nest box at any time of the year. In fact the earlier the better to allow birds in your garden to get used to the box.
Natural nest sites such as holes in trees and derelict buildings are decreasing with modernisation and development so taking part and erecting a nest box can help. We have put together some information below about where best to site your nest box, type of nest box to buy and also how to help ensure a safe environment/location where birds can nest successfully.
Top tips for putting up your nest box
- Provide shelter from the elements
If your nest box does not have a sloping roof, tilt it slightly downwards to prevent rain from entering the nest box. It is also important that the nest box isn’t in direct sunlight for spring and summer and it is sheltered from prevailing wind and rain.
- Make sure there is enough space between nest boxes
Nest boxes of the same type should not be sited too close together as this may promote aggressive behaviour between neighbours.
- Ensure your nest box is high enough
Small-hole boxes are best placed 1-3m (3 – 10ft) above ground on tree trunks. However, avoid sites where foliage may obscure the entrance hole. If there are no trees in your garden you can also site your box on the side of a shed or wall. Great tits use small-hole next boxes but prefer them on tree trunks.
- It’s all about location
Open-fronted nest boxes should be hidden from view on a wall or fence that has shrubs and creepers growing against it. Robins use open-fronted next boxes but prefer them to be at the lower height protected by vegetation.
- Safety from predators
There are many predators such as cats, squirrels, jackdaws, magpies and woodpeckers so it important that your nest box is not easily accessible to them. A metal plate around the hole will deter squirrels and other predators as they will not be able to break in. These plates are fairly inexpensive and are available here at Orchard Park.
- Keep nest boxes away from bird feeders
Feeders can be busy places with high levels of activity of visiting birds which could disturb nesting pairs.
- Prevent rust
Use galvanized or stainless steel screws or nails that will not rust and compromise the security of the nest box. Galvanised wire can be used if fixing boxes to trees to tie the box to the trunk or hang it from a branch. Regularly inspect fittings to ensure the box remains securely attached.
- There’s no time like the present
Traditionally, small bird nest boxes are put up in the spring but breeding pairs begin to prospect in the latter half of February, so a box put up at the end of the winter stands a better chance of attracting nesting birds. However, it is never too early or late to put up a nest box, as some birds will use them to roost in during the winter months also.
Choosing the right nest box
There are lots of nest boxes on the market all different shapes and sizes, some with holes, some open fronted and some made from mixed natural materials such as roosting pockets.
The size of the nest box hole will vary depending on the type of birds you are hoping to attract. For example a small hole of 25mm will be suitable for Blue Tits, Marsh Tits and Coal Tits; a 28mm hole is suitable for Great Tits, Pied Flycatcher and Tree Sparrows; 32mm holes are suitable for House Sparrows and Nuthatches with the larger 45mm hole suited for Starlings. However, this is not an exhaustive list and many other birds also benefiting from the provision of nest boxes.
Open fronted next boxes attract robins, wrens, pied wagtails and spotted flycatchers. Whereas roosting pockets are used predominantly by songbirds for temporary shelter from adverse weather or predators.
When will I get birds in my nest box?
There is no guarantee that all nest boxes will attract nesting birds and if your nest box is not used for several years in succession it may be worth moving the box to a more suitable location.
There are multiple reasons why your nest box may not be being used such as the existing presence of natural nest cavities nearby and the location of territory boundaries. Therefore, while some boxes may be taken up immediately, others may remain vacant, often for no apparent reason.