RSPB’s Morwenna Alldis encourages us to celebrate National Nestbox Week by giving your local birds a home this Spring.

It’s National Nestbox Week from 14-21 February, led by the British Trust of Ornithology (BTO). So this month is the perfect opportunity to ensure your garden is nestbox ready in time for the start of the busy breeding season from the end of March.

Many natural nest sites have sadly been lost with the removal of hedges in favour of fences, the loss of trees, and modern building preferences that don’t feature eaves – nest sites for starlings, swallows, and our declining house sparrows. By putting up a nestbox you are giving nature a home, and for me, there’s nothing more rewarding than watching your feathered friends start to explore their new pad, hopefully feather a nest, and raise their young right in front of you. Warm, fuzzy feelings guaranteed and a fantastic way to connect with nature, especially for children.

Photo by Tony Waldon

Here are our four top tips for attracting your feathered lodgers!

1. Size Matters!

Nestboxes come in different shapes and sizes depending on the species – for example robins and wrens like an open fronted box, positioned low down and hidden in either a tree, shrub or bush. Whereas sparrows, tits and starlings like their closed-box homes fixed five meters up a wall or tree.

Photo by Grahame Madge (rspb-images.com)

So before you pick your perfect nestbox, familiarise yourself with your local birdlife and choose one to suit the feathered friends that share your home.

Remember also that different species need different sized entrance holes, enabling them to enter their home, but crucially keeping predators out.

  • 25 mm coal tits, marsh tits and blue tits
  • 28 mm great tits and tree sparrows
  • 32 mm nuthatches and house sparrows
  • Starlings – their boxes should be 25-30% larger with an entrance measuring 45 mm
  • The bottom of the entrance hole should be at least 125 mm from the floor – to prevent chicks falling out or cats getting a paw in.

If you fancy making your own nestbox here’s our step-by-step guide

Or visit our RSPB Shop at Darts Farm in Topsham or at RSPB Arne in Dorset, where they have a full range of readymade bird homes, just waiting to be moved into.

2. Think minimalism over chintz!

Whilst there are some very decorative nestboxes on the market they’re not the most practical for our feathered friends and can put birds off. The more inconspicuous the better, so avoid bright colours, make sure the box is made from sturdy material (it needs to support weight), no perch inside, and nestboxes shouldn’t be too smooth on the outside as this makes them slippery for young birds to get out.

Photo by Farrah Stevens (rspb-images.com)

3. Location, location, location

The position of your nestbox is key. Face your box north and east to avoid strong sunlight and the wettest winds. Also angle the box forwards slightly so that rain hits the roof and bounces off.

Ensure the birds have a clear flight path to the nestbox entrance without any trees or washing lines in the way – allowing them easy access to their home and a quick, safe escape route should they feel threatened.

Don’t position nestboxes of the same type too close together as this may spark aggressive behaviour between more boisterous neighbours!

4. Keep a lid on it

Finally, when you flip the ‘Vacant’ sign on your nestbox, remember to give the new tenants total privacy – no lifting the lid or putting an eye to the entrance hole (you wouldn’t want a giant peering through your window). Instead, sit back and enjoy giving nature a home from a distance.

Photo by Mark Thomas

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