Boxing clever!


Spring might seem a long way off but some birds will soon be prospecting for nest sites. The British Trust for Ornithology is urging people to put up a new nest box now and, by doing so, increase the chances of it being used come the spring. The Garden Ecology Team has produced a new leaflet providing expert advice on how to build a nest box, where to erect it and how to look after it.

House Sparrow
House Sparrow, Kinderton, Cheshire (Photo: Malcolm Richings)

House Sparrows return to their breeding colonies in late autumn, with the female bird often roosting within the nest site throughout the winter months. Other birds, such as Wrens and Blue Tits, may also use boxes for roosting, so getting a box in place now could prove really valuable.

Vivienne Greenough, Nest Records Officer at the BTO, commented: "This new leaflet is packed full of useful information about providing nest boxes for birds in your garden. Many species of bird will take readily to nest boxes and so this leaflet offers simple designs that can be tailored to each. The leaflet also shows you where best to place your nest boxes for the comfort and safety of their occupants; it explains how to look after the boxes so that they will remain in use for years to come. Few garden delights are as simple and yet fascinating as erecting a nest box and watching it become home to a family of birds; this leaflet shows you just how to achieve that."

Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher, undisclosed site, Staffordshire (Photo: Jane Stanley)

"A number of species of conservation concern, like House Sparrow, Spotted Flycatcher and Starling, make use of nest boxes and are likely to benefit from ones that are well constructed and carefully positioned. Not only do we want people to erect new boxes, we also want them to take an interest in how these boxes are used. Nest monitoring is one of the key methods by which we can gather information about changes in breeding success and laying dates, factors that might be influenced by, for example, a changing climate." said Mike Toms, Head of Garden Ecology at the BTO.

Top ten tips for a successful nest box:

  1. Ensure your nest box has a hinged or removable lid to aid easy inspection and cleaning.
  2. Treat your nest box with a water-based wildlife-friendly preservative to increase the longevity of the box.
  3. Fix a horizontal or vertical batten to the back of the nest box to help prevent water from running down into it.
  4. Do not site your nest box too close to bird feeders where the presence of large numbers of feeding birds may cause disturbance to any occupants.
  5. Site your nest box in a place that will not make it easily accessible to predators.
  6. For cleaning and monitoring purposes, place your nest box at a height where you can easily reach it.
  7. When erecting your nest box, use screws instead of nails as these will last longer. Stainless steel/brass screws are ideal.
  8. Ensure the nest box entrance faces away from prevailing wind, rain and direct sunlight.
  9. To give additional shelter to the box entrance, angle the box slightly downwards.
  10. Drill a few holes in the base of the box for drainage.

For your free Nest Box leaflet please call the BTO on 01842 750050, email gbw@bto.org or send an A5 SAE to Nest Box Leaflet, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, IP24 2PU.


Written by: BTO