Bird Houses

Bird Houses

Your garden is something to cherish. It’s a place of green plants and chirping birds. It’s your own private refuge from the world. But why not take the next step? Why not transform your garden into a bird nursery with a few well-placed bird boxes and bird houses!

British birds that use bird houses

Not all birds will use a bird house or nest box. Bird houses are primarily used by birds that are considered cavity nesters. Which British birds use bird houses and nest boxes? Here is a quick list:

Barn owl

Pied Flycatcher

Blue Tit

Pied Wagtail

Coal Tit

Redstart

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Robin

Great Tit

Spotted Flycatcher

House Sparrow

Starling

Jackdaw

Stock Dove

Kestrel

Swift

Little Owl

Tawny Owl

Marsh Tit

Tree Sparrow

Nuthatch

Willow Tit

 

Key bird house features

Birds will look for certain features when they’re hunting for nesting cavities. It is important to remember they are not concerned with features that humans find cute or charming. A colorful paint scheme, funny signs and added decoration aren’t important to birds!

Instead birds are best attracted to bird houses that include:

  • Rough interior walls. If the inside of the bird house is smooth, the hatchlings won’t be able to climb out when they are ready to fledge.
     
  • Untreated wood. Look or build birdhouses made from fir, cedar or pine.
     
  • Drainage and ventilation holes. These are needed to vent excess heat and moisture.
     
  • Sturdy construction. It shouldn’t be flimsy – think of it as needing to simulate the strength of a tree.
     
  • A sloped roof with an overhang. This will shield the entryway from rain and other precipitation.
     
  • Specific hole size. Many birds require a very specific nest box hole, while others are not so picky. The picky ones will not use a bird house with too large of a hole, and they obviously cannot fit in one that is too small.
     
  • Forget the perch. In general, birds do not need a perch right outside the entrance hole. In fact, a perch can make it easier for predators to access a bird house.
     
  • Proper placement. Each species has specific requirements. These requirements can include mounting height, distance from other cover and a sense of security.

Birdhouse hole diameters, opening sizes and placement heights

Each species of British bird seeks out specific criteria for its bird house. Consult this list for specific details on each species’ needs for its bird house opening and placement needs.

SPECIES

HOLE/OPENING SIZE

PLACEMENT DIRECTIONS

Barn Owl

255 mm opening

4m minimum

Blue Tit

25 mm opening

1m to 5m with unobstructed flight to entrance

Coal Tit

25 mm opening

1m or less

Great Spotted Woodpecker

50mm opening

3m to 5m

Great Tit

28mm opening

1m to 5m

House Sparrow

32mm opening

Over 2m

Jackdaw

120mm opening

Very high, 5m at minimum

Kestrel

170mm opening

At least 5m with unobstructed flight to entrance

Little Owl

70mm opening

Any height

Marsh Tit

25mm opening

1m

Nuthatch

32mm opening

Over 3m with unobstructed flight to entrance

Pied Flycatcher

28mm opening

2 m to 4m

Pied Wagtail

100mm open front

Up to 5m

Redstart

50mm opening

1m to 3m

Robin

100mm open front

1m to 2m

Spotted Flycatcher

60mm open front

2m to 4m

Starling

45mm opening

At least 2.5m

Stock Dove

150mm opening

At least 3m

Swift

55mm oval opening

As high as possible, with clear drop below

Tawny Owl

200mm open front

At least 2.5m

Tree Sparrow

25mm opening

More than 2m

Willow Tit

32mm opening

1 m to 5m with unobstructed flight to entrance

Wren

50mm opening

About 1.5m

 

How to buy a bird house

You can find two all-cedar bird houses here at www.wildbirdfeeders.co.uk. These feeders are built for use by a number of species, so you’re sure to find that one feathered friend or another will soon take up residency!

  • Wren house -- Perky-Pet® offers a cedar bird house that your resident wrens will happily use. The 160mm tall house features a 50mm opening and ventilation slots under its overhang. Placing the wooden bird house is easy thanks to its hanging rope – just hook it on to a branch among some dense foliage or shrubs. 
     
  • Tree Sparrow House -- With an attractive ‘A’ Frame design, the Perky-Pet® Tree Sparrow house is suitable for several species of tits as well as the Tree Sparrow. Measuring 40 cm at its peak, this all-cedar bird house includes a 40 mm entrance hole. For easy cleaning, just open the wooden bird house’s side panel.

You can also build your own bird house! Look for plans at the British Trust for Ornithology or Royal Society for Protection of Birds websites.

Cleaning your bird house

Bird houses need regular cleaning, just like your own house. Typically, you can clean it at the end of the brooding season, but prior to winter’s arrival. A bird house may serve double duty over the course of the year. It will be used for nesting in the spring and summer by one species and as a warm roost in winter by another.

To clean a bird house, first check that there are no chicks inside and also observe it for a short time to make sure no other birds are still using it. Once you’re satisfied its unoccupied, the cleaning can begin!

  • Open or partially disassemble the house. Bird houses with no removable or hinged parts can be very difficult to clean, so consider this prior to your purchase.
     
  • Remove nesting material and any accumulated feces. To avoid the spread of parasites, dump these directly into a waste receptacle.
     
  • Scrub the bird house. Use warm water and a light soapy solution. Make sure to clear out ventilation holes!
     
  • Allow to drip dry. While it dries, take time to look for any damage or other issues that could harm birds that may use the bird house in the future.
     
  • Reassemble and hang.

Bird house questions

You may still have some questions about your bird houses. Here are some common bird house questions.

Q. Why are there no birds in my bird house?

A. Bird houses are great, but you may not have birds visiting your garden. Try to add more things to attract birds to your garden including bird feeders, water features and nesting material.

Q. When is the right time to put out a bird house?

A. Most birds begin assembling their nests in the early spring. Some even begin in late winter. Your best bet is to have your bird houses mounted by late February.

Q. Why are birds not reusing the bird house they used last year?

A. Many birds will not use a space that already has nesting material in it. Clean out your bird houses in the autumn to make them ready for use in the spring.

Further, it is best to put out a new bird house as soon as you bring it home, regardless of the time of year. This gives an interested bird an opportunity to tour the bird house in advance of breeding season.

Q. The wrong bird is using my bird house. I wanted to attract another species. What did I do wrong?

A. Chances are you have set up the house incorrectly for the species you were trying to attract. Make sure to follow the species specific guidelines for entrance hole size and placement height.

Your bird house

Even after you’ve reviewed the options and guidelines for adding a bird house to your garden, you still may have more questions. We suggest you join us on Facebook and post those questions. You may also subscribe to our E-Newsletter, and we will send you more birding tips and exciting sale announcements.

Happy birding!

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