At this time of year, millions of birds across the country will be house hunting, ready to set up home and raise a family in the spring. So if you’ve never built a nest box before, why not give it a go this weekend - after all, it is National Nest Box Week!
There’s a bewildering array of different nest box designs out there, so how do you know which one to choose? Well, this really depends on what species of bird you want to attract.
Read our online guide and you'll find out everything you need to know about what nest box to choose and how to make one, as well as where to site it.
If you fancy having a go at making a box yourself, but think you
might need someone on hand to help, why not pop along to one of our
reserves this weekend and take part in a National Nest Box Week event –
there are lots taking place up and down the country.
If your carpentry skills aren’t up to much, never fear, we’re offering 10% off all ready-made nest boxes from our online shop until 22 February and a FREE nest box if you become a member before 31 March – so there’s never been a better time to help your garden birds set up home.Not only will you be making a real difference to garden birds by
providing a safe place for them to rear their young, putting up a
nest box means you’ll also be able to see birds up close and get a
really great insight into their lives.
If you see any odd behaviour or peculiar goings on in your new nest box, let us know - we’d love to hear your stories and might just have the answer!
We feed our garden birds all year round. Years ago I put up a nest box for both Blue Tits and Robins, but have never had a single bird nest in all those years. Our neighbours, (across the fence 20 yds away) who NEVER feed the birds ALWAYS have nesting Blue Tits. Although we have a cat, and they dont, our nesting box is sighted well out of reach.
What are we doing wrong?
Wow, what a brilliant response! Thanks for all the comments and questions – it’s great to hear that so many of you are keen to help your garden birds set up home this spring.
I’ll try and answer your questions now, but as there are quite a few this could be a long post – so please bear with me!
Right, here goes…
You’re very welcome! Fingers crossed you’ll have some tenants ready and waiting to use your new box when it arrives.
Paul has given you some very good advice about this – provided that the nest box is placed high enough up on the wall, and there’s nothing that the cats can climb on to reach the box, you should be OK. Keeping your cats indoors at dusk and dawn, when birds are most active is a good idea. It might also be worth thinking about fitting your cats with a collar with either a bell or sonar device attached, as this helps to alert birds to the cat’s presence and has been proved to reduce the number of birds caught by cats (always ensure that you use a collar fitted with a quick release mechanism though).
Thanks for offering such good advice!
Your blue tits did amazingly well to raise 14 healthy fledglings – the average clutch size for a blue tits is usually around 9 eggs and these aren’t all guaranteed to hatch. The maximum number of eggs ever recorded in a blue tit clutch was 16 – so your blue tit family were very close! I’m sure all the food you provided would have helped. Lets hope you have another family that does as well this year!
Thanks for pointing out about the squirrels – they’re ingenious creatures and have been known to lift the hinged lid of a nest box to reach the eggs inside. The nest boxes in our online shop don’t have hinged lids, but existing hinged nest boxes can be easily adapted if necessary, by fixing a latch to the lid – this should stop all but the most dexterous squirrels lifting the lid!
I think the most likely explanation for why the blue tits abandoned their first nest is that it had been disturbed, perhaps by a cat or squirrel investigating the box, so the birds felt that it was no longer a safe place to rear their young.
I’m glad to hear that ‘take two’ was more successful!
It sounds like you’re doing a great job creating habitat for wildlife in your area – I hope you’ll be rewarded with lots of fledglings this spring.
It sounds like your robin has very good taste and an eye for prime real estate!
There are a few possible reasons why your nest boxes aren’t being used:
- The location of the boxes may be unsuitable for the species that they’re intended for. So, for example, robins will need an open-fronted box hidden in vegetation before they will take to it, whereas blue tits prefer a clear run into a hole-fronted box – a branch too close to the entrance may put them off. An exposed south facing location that will easily overheat is often rejected too.
- The nest boxes may be in an area where the birds can’t find enough food for their young. Supplementary feeding will certainly help, but isn’t always enough to tempt birds to nest in an area.
- Birds divide an area into territories and these territories don’t always follows boundaries that are obvious to us humans! So the chances are that two nest boxes close together in the same garden, or even two boxes in neighbouring gardens, are unlikely to be used in the same season – birds like their space!
- Bird populations fluctuate naturally, so in some years there may simply not be enough birds to occupy each vacant nesting territory.
Don’t despair though, provided that the nest boxes in your garden are suitable for the birds that visit, and there’s enough food nearby, your boxes should be used sooner or later!
If you don’t like the idea of rigging up your own remote camera, an easier option would be to invest in a ready made nest box with a built-in camera (our online shop sells several different version, and they can also be bought from lots of garden centres).
During the breeding season, breeding birds have a very strong parental instinct and this manifests itself in the urge to tend to their young. If a bird’s own brood is lost, or fails to hatch, it will sometimes transfer its parenting instincts to another bird’s brood.
In this case, the stimulus of hearing the great tit’s brood calling in the nearby nest obviously proved too much to resist and the blue tit’s instinctive response to feed the young kicked in.
I chose this particular photo because of the very photogenic little chap at the entrance,. However we do recommend not to use boxes with perches and I can see that my choice of photo might be a bit confusing in this respect, so apologies for that.
Phew! I think that’s everyone!
Thanks again for all your comments and I hope you're all rewarded for your efforts with lots of fledglings this year!
I'm surprised that the nestbox shown has a perch, particularly as the RSPB "Nestboxes" leaflet specifically states ...."Do not fit a perch on the front of any box, as this will encourage intruders. Birds do not need a perch."
We had two nest boxes on our trees, one old one favoured by blue tits and one newer one as yet unused. Christmas 2009 I gave my husband a sparrow terrace which was duly installed on one of our gable ends. Last Spring to my joy a house sparrow appeared in our garden - a rare appearance - and then started building a nest - in the blue tit's box! I don't know if he shouted his expertise to all and sundry a little too much from the top of the box but after about 2 weeks he and his mate disappeared into thin air. We suspected a visit from the local kestrel but had no proof. Meanwhile the blue tits built a nest in the middle of the sparrow terrace and, subsequently, a great tit built in the end section. There was frantic activity to and from our bird table for weeks and eventually we heard the baby tits voicing their hunger. Imagine my surprise when one day observing the visits of both pairs of tits to the box, I saw the blue tit enter his/her own section in the middle, pop out again and enter the great tits' section. This continued for some time over a period of days and the blue tit or tits were definitely feeding the great tits' brood. Eventually the great tits all fledged into the nearby trees and I thought the blue tits had also fledged a brood but I was mistaken because we have just taken the terrace down to clean it out ready for the Spring and found the blue tit's nest with 10 unbroken eggs inside. There was certainly a large brood of fledged blue tits chasing amongst the trees so there must have been another nest nearby in the hedges. The unused section of the sparrow terrace had a great deal of droppings on the floor and must be used for roosting purposes. Meanwhile the unused newer box on the tree had been attacked by (we suspect) squirrels and the hole dramatically enlarged so we took it down and found the lid was loose which may account for the birds being uninterested in it, as we have seen them inspect it on occasions. We will replace it with one with a metal plate round the hole. We have also just replaced the other tree box with a strong new one and now await developments this Spring. I like the idea of Julie's nest box with a tunnel entrance to deter squirrels, etc.
In the past few years I have purchased nesting boxes which has a tunnel like shape at the entrance. The tits love this as it protects the babies from being snatched by larger birds through the entrance.
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