I am of course talking about nesting boxes! Putting up nesting boxes in gardens at this time of the year has got to be one of the best ways to help give our feathered friends a great chance of finding a top spot for raising the next generation when the spring arrives. In this blog i'll talk about boxes with small entrance holes.

Your standard small nesting box with a 32 mm entrance hole is potentially a nest site for house sparrows, great tits, blue tits and possibly coal tits in gardens, also pied flycatchers if you are in the right areas with the right habitat. You can limit the variety of species that can use the box by fitting a nesting plate over the hole, blue tits can squeeze into a 25 mm opening, but 32 mm is usually a good size hole that can attract a range of species in a garden. In order for these species to feel safe enough to nest, the box needs to be positioned somewhere open, so they can check the coast is clear, relatively disturbance free and ideally at or above two metres high. House sparrows are a little bit more sensitive than the tits so go higher for them if you can whilst some tits will nest much lower but would be more vulnerable to ground predators as a result.

Some good examples of tit nesting locations are tree trunks, fenceposts, shed, garage and house walls. Always choose somewhere that has open access to and from the hole but some cover nearby to disguise their approach and exit from the nest. In order to prevent the young inside getting cooked during hot weather, try to avoid walls or the side of trunks that face south, north or west are usually fine. House sparrows seem to prefer their boxes being located up under the eaves in loose colonies, two or three on the same wall a few feet apart could be the start of a nice little colony. If you cannot get up to the eaves, have a look on your house to see if any window ledges offer an over hang, as long as they are above two metres there is a chance that sparrows will have a look.

Remember, these boxes don't need a perch under the hole, these birds can cling quite easily to the hole itself. You might see them pay a visit to check it out over winter, they may even use it to roost but for most of us it takes a while for the box to be accepted so prepare to be patient!

 Any questions, add them using the comment box below!!!


  • No problem, thanks for yoru comments and I hope your nesting boxes continue to be successful!

  • Hi Ian, sorry a bit late in catching up with your reply.  On the whole I think we are in agreement, ie avoid excessive conditions such as heat, too much or lack of, wind and rain.  I think all my boxes are in such positions.

    Thanks for an interesting discussion

    Regards Roy

  • Hi FOFOF,

    Whilst there are no studies documenting ideal orientation, these recommendations come from years of experience of nest box monitoring, mixed in with a healthy dose of common sense, you don't need to just take my word for it, check out the advice from the BTO nestbox guide. An interesting quote from that publication is "your patio suntrap probably won't make an ideal nestbox location". So yes direction and location are important for the nesting birds, though if the box is totally wrong they probably won't use it in the first place!

    Considering that every garden is going to have different spaces available for nestbox location, what works for one person might not work for another. Whilst the north winds might be cold in your area, I doubt if they are the prevailing winds that blow through during the summer when the box is in use, the prevailing winds during the summer nesting season are usually the warm south westerlies I believe.

    I didn't go into great detail about aspects on the blog, as the conditions from one garden to another are so variable just the main principle of avoiding exposed south facing 'suntraps'. As I mentioned in my last comment, it does depend on the level of shelter and shading the boxes are exposed to. If you take anything from this just try to avoid suntraps, aspects that get lashed by rain or high winds and you won't be going far wrong.

  • Hi IanH

    I assumed the cold north winds would be detrimental.  However, does it really make much difference, whatever way the entrance faces, with a four-sided box then one aspect will always face the wrong way and be heated or cooled accordingly.  Has anybody any temperature measurements to define the best orientation ? I have not seen any such study.

    I have a predominantly south west wind in my area, but the north wind can be quite cold.

  • Hi FOFOF

    Our advice has always been to avoid south facing aspects in case the young suffer as a result of the midsummer sun blazing on the box all day causing temperatures to rise inside. However if your boxes only get morning sun and are shaded through the rest of the day then temperatures might not be as bad as if they were fully exposed to the sun from the south all day.

    I usually try to put boxes up on either north or east facing aspects or facing west if the site is protected from the wind.