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What nest box to choose for your garden birds
Now is the time to put up a nest box
This week is National Nest Box Week, when the British Trust for Ornithology encourages people to put bird boxes up in their gardens. The aim is to address a shortage of natural nest sites and redress a decline in garden birds.
The week kicks off on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, whilst the love is in the air. The idea is that you will be in time for birds that have just begun courting to make a love nest in your garden.
A nest box means birds bringing up babies in your garden
Adding a nest box to your garden is an easy way to give birds a safe place to breed. My own garden is full of nest boxes. I also regularly advise local landowners on where to place boxes to attract owls and kestrels.
The advantage of persuading birds to nest in your garden is that you get to watch their young as they grow -and eventually fledge – right on your doorstep. For me, having nest boxes right outside the house means I can be there to photograph and paint the birds I see.
Nest boxes can be attractive
Many of the nest boxes in my garden are made from reclaimed tree stumps. I carefully select these because they make beautiful backdrops for my photographs and paintings. The tree in the painting of a barn owl below is actually an old elm stump which I salvaged and adapted as an owl nest box. It was heavy and had to be hoisted into a sycamore tree.
Birds don’t need tailor-made nest boxes
The best place to put up a nest box
Choose the right nest box for the right species
If you are not particular about which species you want then the box that appeals to the widest range of common garden birds is around 28cm high, 15cm wide and 13cm deep with a 32mm hole.
But if you want to be really specific here is a list of what size entrance hole suits which species.
For robins, wrens, blackbirds, spotted flycatchers, pied/grey wagtails or song thrushes choose open fronted boxes. Make sure the front or the top of the box opens for cleaning.
Wood-crete nest boxes are the best
There are plenty of nest boxes available on the market made from wood or terracotta, but I really recommend woodcrete (a sawdust and concrete composite). These boxes are indestructible and provide great insulation too!
Avoid diamond-shaped nest boxes
I really don’t recommend this shape because it doesn’t give birds enough space to fill with nesting material.
Make a terrace of nest boxes to attract sparrows
A nest box with a triangular slip or hole will attract treecreepers
Little owls need a nest box with a screened-off section at the back
Little owls like to nest in dark cavities, so screen off the back part of the box to create a baffle and use a 7cm entrance hole. Site it high enough to deter predators and in a quiet area.
Tawny owl nest boxes must have tall sides
Nest boxes for house martins
House martins build mud nests on the eaves of buildings, often in colonies averaging five nests. They need enclosed nests with a small opening.
Nest boxes for swallows
Swallows prefer open nests sited inside a building with easy access, such as a garage, porch or stable.
Good luck. And remember. If your nest box is unoccupied for two full breeding seasons – try relocating it.