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Now is the time to put up nest boxes

It might be January and a good few months before your garden birds get down to the serious business of raising a family, but right now is a great time to put up nest boxes.  For one, some species – in particular Blue Tit and Great Tit – will spend a month or more investigating a suitable nest site before making a decision, and that process can often start in January. Secondly, even if the nest box isn’t used for breeding the first year it goes up, there’s a good chance that it will provide a safe and warm sanctuary for birds to roost in over the cold winter nights. If you don’t currently have any nest boxes in your garden or do but you’d like to add to them or replace old ones, and want to ensure you’re doing the right thing, then here are some guidelines and tips. The right box for the right species Nest boxes basically come in two main types: those with a hole in the front and those which are open fronted. For those with a hole at the front the main difference between them is the size of the hole, and this varying to make the box suitable for different species of garden bird. So along with open-fronted boxes, here’s a basic guide per species…

  25mm 28mm 32mm 45mm Open
Blue and Coal Tit X        
Blue/Coal/Great Tit and Tree Sparrow   X      
House/Tree Sparrow, Great Tit and Nuthatch     X    
Starling       X  
Robin, Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush         X

There are also specialist nest boxes for species such as Swift and Tawny Owl, and you can find more details of these here. One particular thing to note about the species of bird listed above, is that House Sparrows typically prefer to nest in small colonies. So although they will take-up a single nest box, they’ll often more readily nest in a Sparrow Terrace which has three separate nesting chambers. Positioning nest boxes The number one rule is never position a nest box where it gets day-long direct sunlight, as it will simply get too hot inside and any young birds will perish. So avoid south-facing aspects, plus also exposed west-facing aspects which are likely to get blasted by wind and rain. The ideal position is a sheltered north or north-easterly aspect. A tree, wall or even a high fence post can be used to secure the nest box to, but generally the nest box should be at least 1.5 metres above the ground. For open-fronted nest boxes, these should always be tucked away in vegetation so they’re not obvious to predatory birds such as Magpies. So a wall or fence which is covered in ivy or other vegetation is ideal. Be patient! Sometimes a new nest box will not be taken-up in the first season, so if that happens then leave it for at least a year and hopefully it will be taken the following breeding season. After that and if it hasn’t been, then moving it to a different site is the way to go. More information and to see our large range of nest boxes We have more detailed information here on nest boxes including necessary annual maintenance, plus of course a large range of high quality nest boxes to buy and even some with a CCTV camera in them so you can watch the action from your living room!