Woodpeckers and Chickadees usually chip
out tree cavities to roost in and raise young each season. Other cavity nesters,
Nuthatches, Wrens, Titmice, Flycatchers, Bluebirds, some of the Swallows, Owls and Ducks,
and a few other species search for these cavities to raise their young in once they are
abandoned by their original inhabitants.
Build a bird house by simulating a tree cavity. Some of the bird
species that nest in tree cavities will nest inside wood birdhouses if the boxes and their
entrance holes conform to species specific dimensions and if the bird houses are properly
mounted at appropriate heights in suitable habitats in the regions indigenous to each
species. Some species that nest on tree limbs or rock ledges will nest on wood
platforms. Some species are more easily attracted to boxes or platforms than other
species. Some have maintained special relationships with humans
North America, about 55 bird species will nest in bird houses and at least 15 will nest on
platforms. See Free Birdhouse Plans for free
wood working plans. There you can select a bird house plan including dimensions and
instructions on where to mount it for each specific bird species. For instructions
on how to build a bird house, see
Since most cavities are excavated in dead, dying or diseased trees with
soft interiors, there is a shortage of habitat supporting cavity nesters in towns and
cities where foliage are groomed and dead trees are considered unsightly. Many bird
species we might expect to find only in forests or open country are found in cities.
Since birds have that unique ability to fly, they appear suddenly in areas where
they were previously absent. The right bird house design in the right area can
attract a bird pair to nest.
Some birds that do not migrate south in cold weather look for boxes to
roost in. Woodpeckers normally chip out new cavities for winter and they may roost
Build wooden birdhouses with ventilation, water drainage, a means to mount
securely, and access to the interior for cleaning. Investigate species intrinsic to
your area and nestbox dimensions intended for those specific species.
Some prefer decorative birdhouses and painted birdhouses. Try
painting 50birds birdhouse designs. Print free woodworking plans for 50birds
Platform and Birdhouse Plans in the
A few birds that nest in trees, stumps, bushes or rock ledges will nest on
platforms. Robins nest on door and window mantels. Phoebes and Barn Swallows
nest in open sheds. Cliff Swallows nest under bridges and building eaves.
Peregrine Falcons will nest on tall building ledges.
Robins are probably the most easily attracted birds to a platform.
Phoebes like platforms. Blue Jays and Mourning Doves that normally nest in trees
will nest on platforms. Song Sparrows, Catbirds and Brown Thrashers will nest on
platforms placed in shrubbery. Carolina Wrens and House Finches nest in either boxes
or platforms. Barn Swallows and Cliff Swallows occasionally take advantage of a ledge
placed in the right spot. King Birds will sometimes nest on posts. Great
Horned Owls, Red Tailed Hawks, and Osprey will nest on large heavy-duty platforms mounted
high in the right places.
See Bird Species Which Nest On Platforms
Mounting Bird Houses
When mounting a wood bird house, in addition to placement for a specific
species, consider accessibility for convenience and safety when monitoring and cleaning.
Be sure houses are securely mounted.
Don't crowd a yard with nestboxes. Wrens may build nests in several
boxes before selecting one, but too many boxes may deter other birds. Bluebird nest
boxes should be about 100 yards apart although swallow boxes can be placed within 10 yards
of the bluebird boxes and make good neighbors as they are less intimidated by sparrows.
Woodpeckers, Chickadees and Owls do not migrate south in winter and may
use nestboxes in winter. Mounting in the fall or winter will give the box a chance
to weather before spring. Place 1 or 2 inches of dry wood chips in the boxes
intended for Woodpeckers, Chickadees and Owls. Sawdust will not ventilate and
dehydrate as well as chips and chips are easier for birds to rearrange or pack in and out.
Fill a box intended for a Flicker. They will excavate the chips.
For all other birds, no nesting material or food should be placed in a
bird house. Don't put bird houses near bird feeders. Face away from prevailing
winds and out of prolonged direct sunlight.
Hanging/swinging birdhouses are
preferred by some species and rarely used by others. Wrens like them.
Chickadees and Tree Swallows will use them occasionally.
Monitor your bird houses being careful not to disturb during nest
building, incubation or brood rearing. If you observe regularly and everything seems
ok, if birds are gathering nest materials, or feeding their young and can hear the hungry
young birds calling for more food, there is really no reason to open nest boxes.
Make sure there isn't something in them other than intended.
Nestboxes also attract squirrels, mice, snakes, insects and unwanted birds like house
sparrows or starlings. Make sure desired birds aren't being driven away. If they are
being intimidated by more aggressive bird species, it's a sign they are in peril.
Nothing is more disgusting than finding a family of dead bluebirds, adults and babies,
around a nest box. Sparrows move into homes with 1 1/2" or larger openings and
starlings will use anything larger than 1 1/2".
There is debate whether one species should be favored over another.
We know not to interfere with natural selection, but Sparrows and Starlings are not
native. Since they were introduced their populations increased to unnatural numbers
displacing native species. They are agricultural pests spreading parasites and
disease and they defile buildings in towns and cities throughout most of North America.
They are not protected by law as are other migratory birds. Destroyed
habitat, over hunting and non-native species reduced natural populations. Now,
proper management is a reasonable intervention, even imperative to ensure survival of the
most easily stressed species.
Protect nests from raccoons, weasels, opossums, cats and dogs by mounting
at appropriate heights, metal poles, and wrapping wood posts with sheet metal.
Bird feeders create a pleasant atmosphere full of foraging and singing
birds. Constant feeding is their sole source of energy and warmth. In Winter,
shortages of seeds, berries, and insects, particularly during severe weather, make
foraging especially difficult.
Sunflower seeds are a premium feed. They are a high energy and
nutritious food source and leave less waste than some other seeds. House Finches,
Purple Finches, Chickadees, Titmice, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, Doves, Goldfinches,
Grosbeaks, Cardinals, Buntings, and Bluejays eat sunflower seeds.
Suet (animal fat) is another nutritious food, which attracts Chickadees,
Woodpeckers, Titmice and Nuthatches. Most birds will eat some suet.
See Feeding Birds and
Water for Birds
Birds need fresh water. Many birds love to bathe in water.
Even the sound of running water will attract birds.
Clean Bird Houses, Feeders and Baths
Used nests are often tainted with fleas, mites, and lice waiting for more
inhabitants. Feeders can spread parasites and disease. Remove nests after
rearing and clean and spray nestboxes and feeders with a mix of 90% water and 10% chlorine
bleach. Replace wood chips in nestboxes for ducks, woodpeckers and
chickadees. Clean feeders regularly and provide more than
one if large numbers feed to reduce close contact. Smaller birds
will be bullied less. Make sure seed is dry and free from mold.
Store seed where mice cannot contaminate it with droppings, parasites
and disease. Bird Baths absolutely must be cleaned regularly.
If they are not cleaned, it would be better not to have one at all.