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Sparrow perched on entrance hole of woodcrete nest box

How to attract birds to a nest box guide

Birds won't come to a nest box likely in garden unless they frequent it daily, so in time you could see a regular move into a box while eating at your feeders.

How to attract birds to a nest box is using more boxes, providing your garden landscape allows a 20ft. distance. Cater to as many small garden birds by using a basic wooden nest box that uses a 32mm hole. It can't cater to them all but it can attract more species. Location and no disturbance would be major factor.

Exciting times ahead in the need to attract birds to your garden to nest, but if you receive birds daily to use your bird feeders, you just may see success.

However, landscape of your garden is important so know that a nest box will have to be mounted no less than 4 metres high. If your garden doesn't allow that, then is a non starter.

More difficulty would be the habitant the nest box is located in, with anything from a tree, ivy to deep shrubs needed but with clearance for birds to access box unrestricted.

All this is made extremely hard as all nest boxes absolutely must be facing north, or north/east only - to protect birds in boxes from sun and prevailing winds.

No good setting up a nest box unless the location intended for a single box or more is left alone - so no nearby noise with children or pets sniffing around.

Patience is all it will take in the end as it can be weeks or months to see a bird nest, but it must be setup up for nesting season come spring.

No concentrating on one species

While its not uncommon to see people go after a certain bird species they regularly see visit their garden daily, mistakes are made assuming the same species will nest.

In fact, people also assume all common garden birds can nest in a nest box, when in fact fewer than five or so are likely too for most of us in the UK, and that is out of a possible twenty-three bird species what nest in bird boxes.

No concentrating your efforts on only attracting small common garden birds then like Tits or Sparrows - when there's an opportunity to widen your net so to speak.

Opportunities can come in Blackbirds or Nuthatches, in which a large open entrance hole box would see you attract Robins or Wrens to nest in a box - though a much larger rounded entry hole could do the trick.

Common birds to nest in most boxes would be Robins, many of the Tit family and House Sparrows - while Wrens prefer nests setup in gardens near wooded areas.

Secure up to three bird boxes

One box might not cut it when attracting birds to a nest box in your garden, so more than one nest box may be needed, or should I say probably will be needed.

Now, you can't just go outside and mount or hang two or three boxes randomly, you must know you can only do so if your garden landscape allows it.

Position up to three boxes twenty or so feet apart but never facing each other.

If the size of your garden doesn't allow three, it could certainly be just big enough for two.

Secure up to three nest boxes then while referring to my where to site bird boxes guide, as location and height of box off ground has an important part to play in whether birds will take to your nest box or not.

Difficulty would come when you have to make sure all boxes are mounted on the one side of the garden - as a north, north/east facing box is a must.

Multi-use box with one size entry hole

To setup multiple nest boxes for small birds only is surely going to increase the odds of seeing a favourite bird of yours nest in one or another.

I would suggest then to only site one to three identical boxes designed for a certain species, rather than a mix as it decreases the likelihood of birds nesting in your box again.

What you must do is buy a bird box that is suitable for as many bird species as possible, and all that box needs is a larger size entrance hole.

I would recommend using a nest box with an entrance hole size of 32mm only, so therefore up to eight bird species may take to it in due course.

Not all I grant you as they prefer their own specific bird box hole size, but its not uncommon to see birds nest in bird boxes intended for other species of birds, small or much larger.

Bird box design matters

Not only the size of the entrance hole matters, its all about mounting a specifically designed nest box that is catered to the bird species needs.

Multi-use nesting boxes would do for small garden birds only, with a not too deep base and not too roomy inside.

However, to attract birds to a nest box for Robins, Pied Wagtails or Wrens, they are all crying out for an open entrance - along with a shallow base to nest behind.

Don't take the design of the nest box too likely, as it can have a say on how successful your nest box is come spring time when birds begin to nest.

Example of that is while in an effort to attract local Swifts or House Martins to nest boxes; species such as these can take to built nesting boxes - only the box must be made out of a mould in the shape of a cup, similar to a nest made in the wild.

Enclosed nest boxes made in wood for a few species are not compatible for their needs.

Positioning is important

Where you decide to site a nest box or many more is up to you, but once again you can rely on simply mounting a bird box to a wall or fence, while hoping for the best.

You absolutely must be sure to site the bird box in a place that is desirable to different bird species that frequent your garden.

To do that refer to my where to site a bird box in your garden guide as its all laid out in greater detail.

However, rule of thumb is any one nest box must not be below 2 metres; similarly, too high a location can be a put off - plus make it difficult for you to access.

Height off the ground for a nest box plays its part mind you, because location may need deep vegetation, ivy, a tree only - or a box must be fixed under the eaves.

How you attract birds to a nest box can depend on many factors, but without a quiet spot in your garden for birds to peacefully nest, they simply won't take to your box.

Quiet, undisturbed spot is needed

Once you found your place to fix one to three bird boxes in your garden, one final factor is taken into consideration, that is a quiet garden will see success.

Now I am not talking about noise or movement indoors or the occasional walk down and back up the garden path, no - I mean gardens that are frequented by playing children or pets will see birds not bother nesting.

More so if the nest box is lower down to the ground, but never at all will birds nest if bobbling heads are seen or pets come to the nest box for a sniff, even once in a while.

Undisturbed spot is needed in your garden then because doing all the correct things to setup a nest box, will see it all go to waste unless you create a pleasant environment.

What can be more important than that is never allowing people, pets - and especially cats - to ever come into contact or in touch with the box, as there's a risk parenting birds will abandon their young... and that is if the cats don't kill them first.

Patience is key to success

So you've opened up your garden to local birds with an invitation to nest in up to three nest boxes in similar design.

On top of that you are using bird boxes with an entrance hole size that is compatible with more birds, yet the nest box design is suitable for many more.

And with the perfect, safe location for each bird box is confirmed so you are ready to go. Catch being you set up the nest box days or weeks ago and still no birds are nesting.

Well, what I must say to you is it obviously must be nesting season at this point in time, because its only in spring, early summer - that birds will nest in your box.

In winter birds can be attracted to nest boxes, only they are used for roosting, not to nest.

It could be weeks you have been waiting in this time of year, but you must understand it can take a while for birds to be comfortable investigating a new nest box.

Be patient, in time birds will come along and before you know it, they will nest.


How to attract birds to a nest box replies heavily on your personal setup, including the much needed environment, in which only your garden can provide.

But to see more small garden birds nest in your garden you'll need to provide a wooden bird box in the correct size, shape matters with a one size fits all entry hole of 32mm.

One box might do it but to add up to three or more if your garden allows it - is to fix as many boxes as it takes - and that is only if you can position each box 20 feet apart.

Positioning one or more nest boxes is important as birds will only take to a specific environment, with a box setup a certain height off the ground. But this location must be left undisturbed while safe from predators, such as cats.

Patience is key to attracting birds to your garden, so unless you are willing to wait months at a time - it may not be a good idea to get started in this timeless hobby.

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