At this time of the year many people will be thinking about placing nest boxes in their garden. As David Hall points out, there are several rules to follow if you are going to be successful in attracting birds to use them.
With natural nesting places fast disappearing, introducing nest boxes into your garden is a great idea at any time of the year.
For many birds, the RSPB actually recommend setting up nest boxes in the autumn. However blue tits and other small birds do not seek out nesting sites until February or March.
Building A Nest Box
You can either buy a nest box or there are several internet sites with instructions on how to build one, with specifications regarding the type of entrance, the size of entrance hole, whether they should be open fronted, and the best materials.
Wood should always be used, the type is not critical but it must be at least 15mm thick to provide sufficient insulation. Metal and plastic will cause overheating and condensation.
Use stainless or galvanized nails to construct the box as gluing will restrict drainage. A couple of holes in the base will also help in that respect.
Height And Positioning
How high to position the box depends on the species you want to attract. Boxes for tits, sparrows or starlings should be 2 – 4 metres (6½ft – 13ft) high on a wall or tree.
Well hidden boxes for robins and wrens can be lower, while you can place woodpecker boxes 5 metres high.
Just under the eaves of your house is a good place for house sparrow and starling boxes. Several can be located a short distance from each other but away from house martins.
Boxes should face between north and east. Choose quiet sheltered positions, not accessible by predators such as cats and squirrels.
Avoid direct sunlight or else the box may well become an oven. A clear flight path is important, and tilting the box forward to deflect rain is also a good idea.
Don't use nails if you are fixing the box to a tree. Wire with some kind of protective covering is preferred.
By placing the boxes at different heights in various locations you should be able to attract a variety of species. Don’t be discouraged if none arrive in the first year but if this happens for several years there might be a good reason, so it will be worth re-locating the box.