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Nesting Boxes: The Proper Home for Any Species of Bird

Nesting boxes in the garden
Nesting boxes provide birds with a refuge in your garden. @iStock/mweirauch

Why Are Nesting Boxes Important?

In nature, more and more nesting opportunities for birds are being removed. So you can do the animal world a favour with a nesting box.

When Should You Hang Up the Nesting Box?

Nesting box on a tree
Where and how high to hang the nesting box depends on the species of bird that should move in. @iStock/mb-fotos

You can hang your bird boxes up all year round. However, if you hang them in the autumn, there is a better chance that a bird will set up home in it in the spring. Because the animals already start looking for a suitable refuge in the autumn.

There is another reason why it makes sense to hang them in the autumn: Because then the nesting box can also serve as a winter residence for birds or other small mammals.

Where Should You Hang the Nesting Box?

A tree is a good place for a nesting box. Secure it directly on the trunk with an aluminium nail or a coated wire on a branch. Chose a branch where the nesting box will swing back and forth as little as possible.

What Is the Correct Height for the Nesting Box?

The ideal height for a nesting box depends on the species of bird. Adjust it accordingly depending the birds for which you want to provide a nesting place.

Nesting box in a tree
A tree can also provide several nesting places. @Flora Press/BIOSPHOTO/Frédérique Bidault

Which Direction Should the Nesting Box Face?

The opening of your nesting box should face east or south-east. The west side is the weather side. This is often too wet. The south side, on the other hand, is too warm.

What Types of Nesting Boxes Are There?

Some nesting boxes are more or less suitable, depending on the species of bird. Cavity nesters such as robins need a semi-open box, for example. Blackbirds also prefer an open nesting option.

The size of the opening is also decisive. Blue tits and coal tits only need about 28 mm to fit through. Great tits and redstarts need 34 mm. The woodpecker taps its own opening to the required size.

Nesting Boxes for Cavity Nesters such as Tits

Great tit on a nesting box
The great tit is a cavity nester. Hang the nesting box at a height of 2.5 m to 4 m for these birds. @Flora Press/FLPA Images of Nature

The great tit is a cavity nester, among other birds. These birds don’t generally care about the shape and material of the nesting box. Only plastic and metal are unsuitable.

The opening should be 32 mm to 34 mm wide. Chose a side of the tree that faces away from the weather and hang the nesting box at a height of 2.5 m to 4m.

Nesting Boxes for Blue Tits

Blue tit on a nesting box
Blue tits are also glad of the opportunity to nest in your garden. @Flora Press/Edition Phönix

Blue tits are smaller than great tits. Offer these birds a nesting box with a smaller opening. The hole should ideally be reinforced with a metal sheet. This prevents larger birds from making the hole larger so they can fit through and chasing the blue tit away from its home.

Chose a place on the tree at a height of about 2 m to 4m. Hang 1 to 2 nesting boxes on your property.

Nesting Boxes for Cavity Nesters

Some birds do not like closed nesting boxes. They find them too dark inside. They prefer a cavity to nest in, however they are very picky in selecting their nesting option.

If a nesting box has been unlived in for many years, rehang it and see if it is more appreciated in a different place in the garden. Often, a simple, open nest support goes down well. Two sides boards underneath the eaves are all some animals need to make a home.

But the open nest supports have a disadvantage: They make things particularly easy for nest robbers. So choose a house wall for protection. Place the nesting box there at a height of 2.5 m to 4 m. Then martens and cats don’t stand a chance.

Nesting Boxes for Starlings

Starling on a nesting box
You need a really big nesting box for starlings. Hang these at a height of 4 m if you want to invite these birds into your garden. @Flora Press/BIOSPHOTO/Thierry Van Baelinghem

Starlings like roomy nesting boxes with a nice view. This cavity nester is really big. So the box and opening need to have the appropriate dimensions. Hang this box at a height of at least 4 m. You can find the appropriate place in a tree. Alternatively, a long rod or a place under the roof overhang will do.

Starlings are sociable. Do you can set up several nesting boxes for them in your garden. Leave a distance of a few metres between each box.

Nesting Boxes for Swallows

Swallow on a nesting box
Swallows are considered good luck for the house and home. These birds particularly like to nest under eaves. @Flora Press/FLPA Images of Nature

Swallows were previously considered good luck for the house and home. Encourage the small birds into your garden with the appropriate nesting support. These birds have fewer and fewer places to build their nests in nature. There is a lack of mud pools that they used as building material for their refuges. So these birds generally readily accept nesting support.

House martins particularly like to nest outside on buildings and in particular under eaves. Their nests are a half ball shape, closed and only have a small entrance.

Swallows are colony nesters. So it’s best to set up several nests next to each other at once for them.

Position the nests at a height of 4 m or higher. The flight approach path must be free. So remove branches that could make the approach flight difficult with a chainsaw or a pole-mounted pruner. The battery driven chain saw UniversalChain 18 from Bosch is a good choice here. You can clop hard reach branches easily and safely with the battery powered telescopic pole-mounted pruner UniversalChainPole 18 from Bosch.

Barn swallows nest in buildings. They often choose barns and stables for this. But they can also be found in garages and carports if there is always a window open. The barn swallow’s nest is the shape of a bowl. Place the nesting support for these birds in a place which is protected from cats and also drafts. If you want to position several nests, leave at least 1 m between them.

Nesting Boxes for Robins and Wrens

Robin on a nesting box
Robins don’t generally require a lot from a nesting box. They are grateful for most boxes. @iStock/Elwitsch

These two species of bird are not very picky when it comes to a nesting place. They will nest in cavity boxes as readily as in tit boxes. They also build their nests between branches, roots or in embankments.

It is not the type of nesting support that is important for these bird species, but the position. Chose a low height of 1 m to 1.5 m. The place should be protected from the rain and ideally in a dense, thorny bush. Cut your way to the perfect hanging position with secateurs or a pruning saw. The battery-powered pruning saw from Bosch is handy and makes it possible to hang the nesting support in the perfect place.

Nesting Boxes for Swifts

Swift on a nesting box
Swifts are particularly happy directly under eaves. The nesting box should be hung 6 m high. @Flora Press/FLPA Images of Nature

Swifts ideally like their nesting boxes directly under the eaves. Here, once again, the air space in front of the box must be free. So remove any protruding branches. Nesting supports for swifts should be hung a good 6 m high.

The birds live in colonies. So you should hang up several nesting boxes at once for swifts.

Here’s How to Protect the Birds from Martens and Cats

Cats and martens often seek out nesting boxes. The animals can sniff out easy prey here. However, there are special anti-marten nesting boxes available in trade shops. These have a porch. This prevents martens or cats from being able to reach the nest with their paws.

The distance between the edge of the hole and the foot plate on a nesting box for tits should be at least 17 cm. Nesting boxes with a sitting pole in front of the opening should be avoided. Nest robbers can use these as a support.

With a wire cat defence belt, you can prevent robbers from climbing up tree trunks.

The Correct Nesting Material

Birds build their nests from different materials. These include, among other things:

  • Raffia
  • Grasses
  • Animal hair
  • Feathers

Support your birds in building their nests by making these materials available. There are also nest depots in trade shops. These are filled with kapok or padding wool. Hang them in a place protected from the rain that cats cannot reach.

Check the Nesting Box and Clean It

Clean the nesting box
Check the nesting box and remove any dirt. Then you will probably have feathered friends in your garden again next season. @MSG / Frank Schuberth Prod.: Christian Lang
Nesting Boxes: The Proper Home for Any Species of Bird
Nesting boxes are important for birds They need a protected location to hatch and raise their young. With our tips and the proper equipment, you can create the perfect nesting boxes for the birds in your garden.
And you can find out how you can build your own nesting box or similar here. This version is intended for starlings. If you prefer to build a feeding house at the start of the winter, you can do so as follows: