While some birds build nests on tree branches, shrubs, porches, and gutters, others seek an enclosure of sorts. These “cavity nesters” look for or, in the case of woodpeckers, create holes in wood to build nests and lay eggs. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough holes to go around. That’s where birdhouses (also known as nest boxes) come in. They provide valuable homes for many species of birds and a wonderful opportunity for birdwatchers to enjoy the age-old process of breeding.
Here’s what you need to know about birdhouses.
Birds That Use Birdhouses
Among the birds that like a roof over their heads are bluebirds, chickadees, woodpeckers, eastern screech and barred owls, wrens, and nuthatches. Different birds prefer different sizes of the hole (or opening) as well as how high that hole is from the birdhouse floor.
If you live in the city or a populated suburb, you’ll most likely want a hole no bigger than 1 1/4”, which is big enough for chickadees and wrens but too small for house sparrows. House sparrows are an invasive, non-native species that can be detrimental to bluebirds, chickadees, and the like. Download our handy chart for more details.
Birdhouse Appearance and Style
Do any search online and you can find birdhouses in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and made of all sorts of materials. They’ve become a bit of a novelty item. But, to have the most success in attracting birds to a birdhouse, we like to keep things simple.
Birdhouses should be made of wood. Not only is wood durable, but it’s porous enough to allow moisture and heat to escape during the summer, which keeps the young birds from getting too hot inside. Metal and plastic can get too hot, which can cause harm to the birds.
Do resist the urge to get creative. Birds avoid bright, unnatural colors (too obvious to predators). Instead, use natural, unpainted wood and stain the outside with a natural wood preservative such as linseed oil.
Lastly, stay away from any birdhouse with a perch. Birds don’t need them and they only make it easier for predators or unwanted birds to get in.
A Guide to Birdhouses
Barn Owl Nest box – videostreaming
Birdhouse Information from Audubon
Birdhouses for Alaska
Free Birdhouse Plans
Kestrel Nest Box Plans
Nestboxes and Birdhouses for Common Birds
Two Decorative Birdhouses for kids’ construction