National Nest Box Week is organised by the British Trust for Ornithology and runs for seven days from 14th February each year.
We spoke to Wildlife World’s Ecologist, Chantal Brown to get her advice about how, why and where to put up nest boxes in our gardens.
Why should I site a nest box in my garden?
“The reason why we need to put up nest boxes is because there is a lack of natural spaces for birds to nest in. Particularly if you don’t have lots of big old decaying trees in your garden then it’s a really good idea to put up lots of boxes. “
Which nest box should I choose?
“Which nest box you choose will determine what species of bird you get in your garden. If you love a robin then you are going to choose an open-fronted nest box. You’ll also get wrens nesting in this type of box.”
Where should I place an open-fronted nest box in my garden?
“You want to make sure it is nestled into the vegetation, perhaps using a fork in a tree or looking for an ivy-covered tree or fence. Robins like to nest in a really secure environment. Although we love to think of robins as being very brave and being farmers’ and gardeners’ friends, following us around, when it comes to their nesting habitats they like to feel sheltered in a private space.
“Secure the nest box using some wire at the back. Whichever nest box you use it is really important that you do secure it really well onto a tree or a fence post or building because, particularly in this country, we get quite unpleasant weather and storms and you want to know that the birds are going to be kept safe and the nest box is never going to fall off.”
What other nest boxes are available?
“The other type of nest box which Wildlife World sells is for the hole nesting species, like the tits and the sparrows. When you are putting these in your garden, the main difference is that the birds like a direct, clean flight line in. You don’t want to be nestling them into the vegetation. These boxes also need to be positioned a little bit higher – from two metres up to about 3.5 metres high.
“When you’re positioning it in the garden think about how the box will stay dry and be the most comfortable it can be for the birds. When you secure it, I tend to just angle it slightly downwards or forwards so that the water will naturally fall away and keep the box as dry as it can be.”
What else do I need to think about when buying a nest box?
- Look for nest boxes made from FSC sustainable wood.
- Ensure that the box is weatherproofed with an overhanging roof.
- Don’t place the nest box near to a bird feeder.
In which direction should the nest box face?
“Birds like their nest boxes to be angled between north and east. If you think that the sun rises in the east and the birds are also early risers, they want that first bit of sunlight.”
Should I help the birds to nest by proving nesting material?
“You don’t want to introduce any nest material yourself into the box. Don’t be tempted to, it won’t speed the birds up they will find their own material. They have different preferences as to what they want to use. However, if you want to put out bits of wool or straw around your garden then do so and the birds will choose to use it if they wish.”
I really want to see the birds nesting, can I look inside the nest box?
“It’s really important not to disturb the nest. If you think you could have birds using the nest anytime from February through to September try to enjoy observation during this time from afar. One really good idea, if you want to get a close-up you can use a camera nest box and enjoy seeing the baby birds from the comfort of your living room.
“So, if you follow some of these suggestions as to how to encourage birds into your garden and watch their breeding cycle throughout the year which is really interesting for us all to observe. However, don’t be put off if they don’t nest straight away. Sometimes the birds like to observe the box, sometimes for a whole year and then they will use it. If after two years you’ve had no success, it’s worth changing the position or height and then hopefully the birds will move in.”