Urgent advice needed - Coal Tits in nesting box

Hello!

We had coal tits nesting in a wooden bird box, the entry hole is a bit big so it's surprising they nested in there. Unfortunately we found 1 dead chick on the ground and 2 dead chicks in the nesting box, but it now seems abandoned by the parents and hopefully other fledglings. I was expecting to find egg shells, I found none.

The chicks inside the box were covered in maggots and ants so I cleared it out and put the box back, but reading various pages I discovered that this may have been a bad idea. Should I pick the maggots out of the nesting material and put the nesting material back in the box? Is it likely that any of the coal tits would return to the box?

Doing the research, we're either going to have to modify this nest box to make the entry hole smaller or buy a new one altogether.

Thanks in advance

  • Eggs shells aren't usually left inside nests, unless the adults don't get chance to clear them (i.e. die). If you are getting ants in the box, you need to move it somewhere else. As you know the nest isn't active, and if you do move it, you might as well clear the contents out. Not sure if modifying the hole is the best option. Hard to know without seeing the box. But, coal tits won't have a second go in that box this year imo.
  • Thanks for the response!

    I ended up panicking before anyone responded and put all the nesting back, minus the maggots and dead chicks!

    I would have thought if ants could get to it where it is now, then there's probably no where I could move it to, to make it ant safe! I think the dead chicks attracted them

    We will of course clear it out but I read that I shouldn't do so until September?

    We wasn't expecting coal tits or maybe they were blue tits, the hole is quite large and we feel guilty that they were probably vulnerable to predators.

  • Yes, recommended nest box clearance is Autumn. You might as well do it now as nothing will use it now. You appear to have trees in the garden. Isn't it possible to hang the box from a thick branch, or against a trunk? Unclear why nest failed. Could it have got too hot on the fence?

    Where did you get the box? Looks deep and a bit of a challenge for young birds to get out of. Normal design has the hole lower down from the roof/lid.
  • I have a similar nestbox in my garden which is designed for robins.
  • Robin boxes tend to be open fronted. Certainly from my experience, those are the ones they go for. Where did you buy it, Elizabeth?
  • In reply to Robbo:

    I bought it from a garden centre a couple of months ago, it's a Tom Chambers nestbox.
  • Thanks Elizabeth. Certainly looks the same model as yours. Not sure why they're designing it like that, rather than open fronted as I'd have thought the 'multi nest box' is more close to the recommended entrance for robins.

    Not sure if it's an optical illusion, but the one is this thread does appear deeper. One online seems about 1/3 entrance to 2/3 box front. One on this thread looks more like 1/5 entrance depth to 4/5 box front.

    Either way, not a good choice for coal tits as there's no way they'd be able to defend it from other species that could fit in.
  • In reply to Robbo:

    I was hoping to attract robins in this one as I have a tit nestbox in another area of the garden.

    The tit nestbox is a Woodstone nestbox which I put up last Autumn, I didn't have any takers this year although there was some interest in January.. What are your views on these type of nestboxes? Thanks
  • We do want to attract coal/blue tits, but we didn't expect them to start nesting in this box! After the box was filled up with best material, it isn't as deep on the inside but you might be right that it was still maybe too deep. There was 3, maybe 4 dead chicks so I can only hope that means that several others managed to leave the nest.

    I think we'll replace the box for next year with a smaller hole. Do you suggest hanging it from a branch because of the ants or because of another reason? I'm not certain if it got too hot but it is shaded from the sun fairly well I think. The afternoon sun does point on the other side of the fence. I will test if it's hot on the next sunny day. It would only get sunshine on it through the tree a bit in the first half of the day
  • That is a good type, Elizabeth. Not unusual to have no nest in the first year. Just as important as the type of box and entrance is the location. Blue tits in particular are territorial. If you have a neighbour with an active nest box, it may be too close. Also, aspect is important. Avoid south facing in particular. Height isn't quite as important for blue tits as other species. As a teenager, parents had a nest on a silver birch. By the time we moved, it must have been about 25ft up!
    Nearby cover is also important. I'm sure you'll have researched prior to putting it up, so I expect you'll get takers next season.