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Wooden bird box fixed to tree trunk, Blue Tit approaching

What is a nesting box?

With all names thrown around well describing a bird box, all you need to know is a nesting box is a box made from wood for birds to nest or roost within.

When referring to a nesting box, it will be made from wood well shaped into a box for birds to nest or roost. Its an artificial bird nest with an entrance hole for birds to enter and exit. Sitting on the base interior is where the nest is laid, with access to the interior for cleaning.

It can be incredibly hard keeping up with all the names thrown at the term bird box, but what that always refers to is a box made by people for birds to nest or roost within.

People refer to a nesting box using terms not recognisable from one person to the next, though all references point back to a nesting box - or whatever you refer it too.

Here on Bird Barn, we will more often than not refer to nesting boxes as bird boxes, though it can be referred to in many other ways;

  • Bird boxes - common British term that is used more often than not, and its a term used by the RSPB.
  • Nest box - Shorten word of the term you may be confused with, so nesting box is an extended word to nest box - both of which are acceptable
  • Bird houses - Often used in Britain, but this term for nesting boxes is one used by our American cousins, so its a US term for nesting boxes.

Nesting boxes can be used as such or with any terms mention above, but it only refers to bird boxes for use with a small number of wild birds that do indeed use nest boxes.

Its also possible to squeeze any of these words together; for example nest boxes could become nestboxes.

Wooden bird boxes are what we would only refer to as nesting boxes, as they're made to be just that - a box - with a section within the box for the birds to nest or roost.

Though all bird boxes must have an entrance hole to call it as such, or else its just a wooden box with no way for birds to enter.

Not exclusive to boxes made from wood, you can also call boxes made from fibreglass or woodcrate... bird nesting boxes.

Refers to handmade only

When we talk about a nesting box - or bird box, bird house, etc. - that means we're only talking about a crafted, made from hand bird nesting box.

Not nests built in nature or boxes made from materials that it not wood or similar, such as woodcrate.

Most common nesting boxes built in Britain are made for small garden birds only, to be setup in ones garden or out in the woods.

If built cheaply, pine or plywood would be the choice of wood, though it can be used as a backing, well using the more expensive wood for the area that it visible

Well those nesting boxes made from Cedar or Oak would be reserved for high end, quality build nesting boxes.

Always made from wood

As we've mentioned, nesting boxes can only refer to those that are made from wood or similar materials, and must be shaped into a box with a rounded or square hole.

That's not always the case mind you as its possible to misinterpret a nesting box, but for good reason as they're widely sold in such a way.

Well a natural, log or trunk carved into a nesting box might 'be called a nesting box,' its not quite a box as its neither a box shape or made to appear so.

No one will question the misuse of the word, but if we were to name that sort of nesting box ourselves, calling it a log nest or something similar would make more sense.

Types of nesting boxes

When buying a bird box, the best bird boxes for sale are those ones that can accommodate the widest bird species possible.

With that in mind a bird box - regardless of shape and size - should have an entrance hole size measuring from 25mm to 28mm.

That way its possible to attract Tits to Sparrows to nest, or a mix of the two if you have multiple bird boxes setup up in your garden.

If attracting Robins, the nesting box requirement for them would be a wooden bird box, only it will have a large open front - and so will attract Wrens also.

We can also refer to large, complicated built boxes for Owls as nesting boxes, as they are always made out of wood.

Box for wild birds to nest or roost

Nesting boxes are just that, to be setup as a nest for the Spring time, well used over the coming months to feed themselves, there partner and the hackling's.

And despite the name, nesting box - it doesn't have to be used for that purpose only.

Wild birds need a place to sleep or rest during the rest of the year so will use the same nesting box to roost only.

What that means is, its a place to live when they're not breeding, and also shelter from the elements... with a comfortable, safe wooden box to sleep.

In this time, its not uncommon to see a dozen or more birds roosting in the same box.

Roosting in nesting boxes happens in autumn and winter.


Nesting boxes are handcrafted, made from wood boxes that are built to accommodate wild birds during the nesting season or for roosting the rest of the year.

They're called nesting boxes - or nestbox - for a reason, to nest during the Spring before vacating once the young have left.

Nesting boxes can also be used to roost; meaning it can be a place to take cover well staying out of the freezing cold in the winter months.

To class a 'nesting box' as a bird box for birds to nest, it should be a box shape and made from wood, or material such as woodcrate or fiberglass.

If its a fancy nesting box such as a decorated tea cup, wooden log or anything that is not made from hand, its not really classed as a nesting box.

Regardless, its possible all types of bird boxes can be called nesting boxes, with no one likely to correct you.

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