Many of the natural nesting sites for birds are disappearing due to habitat loss, e.g. holes in houses are plugged up and woodland and hedgerows are cleared. By putting up a bird box in your garden you can not only help a bird species survival, but also get the immense pleasure of watching wild birds set up home!
First you need to choose the right bird box for the species you want to attract. Bird boxes are essentially a box with a hole in it, but the size of the box and the entrance hole dictate which species will be able to use it. 25mm holes are good for smaller tits such as blue, coal and marsh tits. 32mm holes are better for encouraging larger tits, nuthatches and sparrows. Some birds such as robins, wrens and pied wagtails prefer an open-fronted box. You can have a go at building your own boxes, or buy them fairly cheaply from garden centres and other shops, as well as of course online. They come in some very ornate designs, but I’m quietly confident that the birds don’t really mind too much. If you have the room choose a range of different designs and box sizes to attract a wide range of different birds.
Make sure you put up the bird box in winter. This allows any human scent (although I’m sure you all smell lovely) to disappear and let the birds get used to them before the breeding season starts. The best site is on a tree, wall or fence, around 2 – 4 metres from the ground. Although Northeast is generally regarded as the best direction for a box to face, in reality ensuring it is sheltered from prevailing winds and rain and positioned away from strong sunlight are the most important points to consider.
Never place a bird box adjacent to a bird table or hanging feeders – the residents of the box will suffer disturbance from other birds coming to feed and may become stressed and abandon the nest or just waste time and energy chasing the other birds away from their territory.
Always ensure there is a clear plight path into the box, but use available cover to help position the box away from the unwanted attentions of predators, the dastardly pet cat for instance, and from any human interference, malicious or otherwise.
Bird boxes should be cleaned out every autumn (after August) when any late broods have left the nest box. Cleaning and removing nest materials and other debris from the box ensures parasites and disease do not remain in the box awaiting the arrival of the next years brood.
Above all, as with many animal related activities, BE PATIENT! Some people nest boxes are occupied immediately, while others may not be for a number of years after they have been erected!
A bird box can make your garden a haven for a bird family and they may return year upon year, providing a new area of interest on the garden and a great deal of pleasure! Not to mention helping to conserve birds within your local area.