Amazingly over the past few weeks, we’ve been getting calls regarding some birds busy building nests, and even reports of nests with chicks in! It seems that to some birds, spring has sprung!

The mild weather, along with food availability has lulled some birds into thinking it’s a good time to raise a brood. Only today, I took a call from a supporter who was watching a Robin feed its chicks with the meal worms he had put out. With signs of activity, it’s a good time to think about putting nest boxes into place, before the nesting season starts with a vengeance, if you haven’t done so already. Nest boxes can be useful to birds throughout the year so can be put up at any time. Over the winter months, nest boxes can be used by birds to roost in and to get out of the worst of the weather.

Birds adapt various strategies to stand the best chance of getting some of their offspring to fledge the nest, and hopefully get to adulthood. Birds will nest at different times of year, often to coincide with warmer temperatures and available food to feed their young, and can produce single or multiple broods. Blackbirds and Robins are some of the first to nest and will have multiple broods throughout the spring and summer. Robins make good use of open fronted boxes, placed in foliage (Ivy, Clematis, Honeysuckle, etc), less than 2m from the ground. Blue Tits normally nest around the end of April, but only have one brood each year. Most boxes you buy have a 32mm entrance hole (to encourage a greater variety of species to use the box), but if you want to make your box specifically for smaller species such as Blue and Coal Tits, you need to reduce the size of hole to 25mm, by using a nest box plate over the hole. Nest boxes need to be sited ideally in a north-easterly direction to avoid most of the sun, which may lead to the box overheating. Blue Tits like a clear run into the box, whereas Robins like to be hidden away, but the sooner you put the boxes, the greater the chance that the birds will find the box and use it.

Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

If you are lucky enough to have birds already nesting in your garden, you might like to think about putting live mealworms out for the birds to feed to their young with. If you don’t like the idea of live feeding, you can always soak your dried mealworms over night, before you put them out. Chicks only get the moisture they need from their food. Therefore, species such as Blue Tits may be struggling to find the insect food they normally feed to their young at this time of year. You can buy dried or live mealworms from us at our shops or on line (see link below).

http://shopping.rspb.org.uk/bird-food/worms-bugs.html

Anonymous
  • I found this information really useful. We have just had some work done in the garden. Shrubs were removed leaving the nestbox completely exposed. I thought that the birds would not go near the nestbox as the location was so open. How wrong I was! I have seen a blue tit investigate the box a few times now. I don't know if it is one pair or different ones. I have not seen a bird taking any nesting material in though, so maybe they are just doing reconnaissance. We moved here last May and the nestbox was already in place. Don't know if it has been used before - it has been empty since we moved in.