Learn the basics of choosing the perfect bird houses for your backyard.
If you love bird watching, then you know setting up bird houses around your yard is a great way to catch a rare glimpse of daily bird life. How do you choose the right bird house to attract the kind of birds you want to see? Common birds that nest in bird houses are tree swallows, bluebirds, chickadees, titmice, house wrens and nuthatches.
Choosing Materials for Your Bird Houses
Choose bird houses made of wood or other thicker materials. Using thicker materials helps the birds stay insulated against the colder weather.
You should pick a bird house without a perch attachment. In the wild, tree hole nests don’t have perches. A perch can actually endanger the birds who choose to nest in a bird house. Perches can attract house sparrows to the nest. House sparrows, a non-native species, will attack the young offspring, even pecking them to death so they can take over the nest.
Sizing Your Bird Houses
The most common size of hole-nesting birds can use a 1-1/2″ entrance hole. The bird houses you buy or build should have an entrance hole about this size. This size also keeps out starlings, another invasive species that takes over nest boxes from native species. Small birds, such as chickadees and wrens, can use a house with a 1-1/4″ entrance hole.
The inside dimensions of the box are important and should be at least 4″ by 4″ so that there is room for baby birds to develop.
You must be able to open the box on either the side, front or top. This helps in two ways. You can monitor the progress and health of the young, and you can clean out the box at the end of the season.
There should be some holes or slits near the top of the box for ventilation. This helps to let hot air out when the sun beats down on the box in summer. It is useful to have some sort of drainage holes in the bottom of the box.
The roof should overhang the entrance hole. This both shades the entrance hole and keeps the rain out.
Placing Your Bird Houses
Habitat is important to attract certain hole-nesting birds. Place bird houses in open, mowed areas for bluebirds and tree swallows. Tree swallows especially like to nest near water. Chickadees, titmice and nuthatches live in forests, so put their birdhouses somewhat near trees. House wrens nest in suburban settings and near edges of brush.
If you plan on putting up purple martin colonies, you will need to place them about 40′ away from any objects, such as trees and buildings.
Mount nesting boxes about 4 to 5 feet high on a metal pole or post, facing any direction. Use a nest baffle, which will keep predators from climbing to the box.