National Nest Box Week (14-21 February) is organised every year by the British Trust for Ornithology as a way to encourage more people to help birds find a suitable place to nest.
Putting up a nest box in your garden will help our feathered friends through nesting season, which runs from March to August, by providing them with a clean, warm environment to lay their eggs and raise their chicks.
With natural habitats such as trees and hedgerows being lost to development every year and the increase in urban housing, birds could do with a helping hand to better their chances of a successful season.
To mark National Nest Box Week, experts in wild bird care CJ Wildlife offer their top tips on what to look for when choosing a home for your garden birds.
How you can help
Many of us feed the wild birds in our garden but it is also vital that they can find suitable shelter when breeding. Even if your garden is small and you only really have space for one box, it all helps! The first thing to consider is the kind of birds you’re hoping to attract, or which regular visitors are already in your garden. However, having two or three general nest boxes with different hole sizes to allow for different species can increase your success, as more than 60 species of bird are known to use nest boxes.
What to look for in a nest box
Traditionally nest boxes are made from wood to offer a longer lifespan and maximum insulation with the entrance hole on the nest box determining which bird it will appeal to most.
Blue Tits or Coal Tits will prefer a smaller entrance hole of 28mm, with Great Tits, Sparrows and the occasional Pied Flycatcher or Nuthatch preferring a larger 32mm hole. Birds such as Robins, Wrens, Blackbirds and Pied Wagtails prefer more open nest sites and will happily move into a half-open fronted nest box.
Look for quality features such as drainage holes, natural-looking designs and insulating materials treated with safe preservatives. It is also advisable to avoid nest boxes with perches on the outside as these offer an opportunity to any predators that may be lurking in your garden.
Location, location, location!
Birds like to feel safe, secure and warm when choosing a home. Boxes ideally should be sited at a height between 1.5m and 5.5m and out of reach of cats and other predators. Try to find a sheltered, shady location, preferably facing north through east to south-east to keep out prevailing winds and strong direct sunlight. If possible, a cover of foliage or climbing plants will help when young birds are leaving the nests for the first time taking their first flights.
A top tip is to avoid putting your boxes too close to feeding stations as the regular presence of other birds in their territory will make the parent birds focus on driving out competitors rather than rearing their young.
Make it feel like a home!
Internal comfort is also very personal as birds prefer to find their own nesting material. However, you can put out things like dog hair or special organic nesting wool, which can be offered from a Nester so the birds can help themselves.
Once you’ve put your nest box up, the birds will keep you entertained for hours wooing their mates, scouring the garden for food to feed their hungry chicks and perhaps the most exciting spectacle, the young fledglings taking their first flight! However, do not attempt to open a nest box during the breeding season as this could cause birds to abandon their eggs and young.
To create a haven for your garden birds, visit CJ Wildlife for a large selection of bird boxes specifically designed by a team of ornithologists.
Main image: Alicante Nest Box (CJ Wildlife)