A Wild Bird House Will Attract A Cavity-Nester

Placing a bird house in your garden is one way to help as nesting sites are being destroyed by agriculture and land development.  Humans are stepping in to try to make up the shortfall by creating habitats to help wild birds nest successfully. 

Black-capped Chickadee nestlings are kept
warm and dry in their comfortable nest box.

Step one - Observe which birds are in your area

Step two - Find out which of these species are easily attracted to a nest box.

Step three - Buy or build a bird house with the right features and dimensions for the species you want to attract.

Step four - Place it ... so it's protected ... at a height the birds will accept ... so you can reach it ... with a secure mounting system.


Only cavity-nester species (which nest in cavities such as tree holes in nature) will accept a nest box to raise their young.  So before you run out and buy a pretty bird house for the cardinals that frequent your feeders .... do some research.  While you may be able to help them nest successfully, it won't be with the placement of a bird house.  These birds and others nest in the open in trees and shrubs.  Others nest on the ground.  A few also build nests underground.

In North America, over 80 bird species nest in cavities at least some of the time.  Eastern, western and mountain bluebirds as well as many species of chickadees, woodpeckers, ducks, and owls are common examples of birds that can be attracted to use wild bird nest box.

Make sure the entry hole is large enough for the species to use without putting excessive wear on wing feathers.  Make sure it's small enough to exclude larger birds that may compete for the nest box.

The area of the flooring and the distance between the entry and floor are important.  Birds need enough space while not having to use energy to fill a too-large area with nesting material.  There should be enough room between the entry and nest so predators (squirrels, raccoons) cannot reach inside to get the eggs or hatchlings.  Yet, the entry must be within a comfortable distance for adults and fledglings to exit.

Assure the bird house:

  • is built of material with insulating properties that protect against cold and heat;
  • has good ventilation - usually through holes under the eves near the top of the sides;
  • has ample access so it can be easily cleaned out;
  • has horizontal grooves under the hole on the inside giving birds (especially fledglings) a boost to exit;
  • is of a color that blends with nature;
  • roof extends and inch or two protecting the hole from wind and rain;
  • has a secure means of mounting it to a tree, post or pole;
  • is placed at least 5 feet off the ground, but more importantly - at a height you can easily reach it;
  • is facing away from approaching weather and in a spot that favors the entry of morning sun for warmth - generally with the hole facing east or south.

Don't be discouraged if the birds don't find your box immediately.  It might take some time for them to discover it.  Place the house out by mid-February in the south and by mid-March in the north.

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