With declining garden bird populations in the UK, there has never been a more important time to help our feathered friends. These days many gardens are tidier, old houses are renovated, barns are converted, and as a result fewer nesting sites are available. By providing a nesting box for birds, you will be doing your bit for conservation, helping to turn your garden into a haven for wildlife.
Nest boxes in the Autumn
Autumn is a time of year when garden birds thrive; there is an abundance of berries, seeds and insects to feed on and the weather is not yet too cold. With a little forward planning you will help to ensure that they continue to thrive as food becomes scarcer in the cold winter months and nesting sites are in short supply.
Garden birds start pairing up and nest-building towards the end of February. This means that bird boxes need to be up and ready in plenty of time – any later than February and there will be a decreased chance that a box will be used that year.
However, if you can put a nest box up even earlier, so much the better! If a bird box is up in the Autumn, garden birds will use it for roosting over the winter, giving them protection from the cold weather. It may also take time for birds to locate a new nest box; once found many birds will return to the same box to nest in the spring. All great reasons for putting up nest boxes in the Autumn!
Nesting box location
Placing your bird box in the correct location will maximise the chances that birds will nest there. So, what do you need to consider?
- Height for nesting box
The preferred height varies between species of bird, but the following can be used as a guide:
- Tits, sparrows, starlings – 2-4m on a sheltered wall or tree
- Robins and wrens – less than 2m, hidden in vegetation
- Woodpecker – 3-5m up on a tree trunk
- Owls – 3-5m or higher on an isolated farmland tree or woodland
Fun fact: According to the RSPB, half of the UK’s barn owls now nest in man-made boxes!
- Clear flight path to entrance – Most birds prefer the entrance to be clear of vegetation so that they have an unobstructed flight path to their box. Avoid boxes with perches; although it might seem like a good idea, perches have been shown to increase the risk of predation.
- Shelter from weather extremes – Angling the box slightly downwards helps protect the occupants from prevailing wind, rain and sun.
- Away from feeding areas – It is best to place nest boxes away from bird feeders or other areas of high activity. Not only will many nesting birds prefer peace and quiet, but an abundance of activity will also encourage birds of prey and increase the risk of sparrowhawk predation.
Which way should a bird box face?
As well as choosing the perfect location for your nest box, the direction in which it faces should be considered. This doesn’t matter too much if the nest box is in a sheltered position but if shade or shelter are lacking, facing the nest box entrance in a north-easterly direction will protect our feathered friends from strong sunshine, as well as shielding them from the worst of the wind and rain.
How many nest boxes can I put in my garden?
The number of nest boxes that you can put in your garden depends on the species of bird that you would like to attract. House sparrows tend to nest in colonies so will happily live in nest boxes spaced out along the eaves of your house. Blue tits on the other hand are very territorial so you would only expect to have one pair nesting in your garden.
If you are a wildlife enthusiast, check out this link for more great information on how to attract wild birds to your garden.