February 14th sees the start of the 22nd National Nest Box Week. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) focuses on nesting birds and encourages everyone to put up a nest box in their garden or local area in order to support the conservation of our breeding birds.
The loss of hedgerow trees, changes to woodland management and increasing urbanisation have all contributed to a decline in available natural sights for nesting birds like the Blue Tit, Starling, House Sparrow and Robin. Nest boxes replace lost opportunities, increasing the numbers of nesting birds and boosting their populations.
Buying a Nest Box
With so many nest box designs to choose from, it can be difficult to choose the best one. Different species have different requirements, so think about the type of species you would like to visit your garden.
All nest box requirements:
- Be made of waterproof insulating material such as wood.
- Have a roof that can be lifted to allow for access for cleaning and nest monitoring. An overhanging roof will make it harder for cats to reach in.
- Be waterproof to make sure no water can get in where the roof is fixed.
- The walls should be at least 15 mm thick for insulation.
- The hole should be at least 12cm above the floor of the box to prevent predators reaching in.
- The inside cavity should be a minimum of 15cm across.
- The floor should have small holes to drain any water that gets in.
- Avoid boxes with a perch as this makes it easier for predators to gain access.
Building Your Own Nest Box
Building your own nest box is fun and great for the children to get involved with too!
What You Will Need
- Soft wood, such as pine (at least 15 mm thick)
- Drill and drill bits
- A rubber strip, such as an old inner tube
- Water-based, non-toxic paint (optional)
How To Build The Nest Box
- Mark out the panels onto the wood with a pencil and label them (front, back, side etc)
- Saw the panels, making sure you make a slanted cut between the front panel and roof at a 45-degree angle
- Front panel: decide which box type you want to make and cut/drill an entrance hole: Blue tit – 25mm D, Sparrows – 32mm D, Robin – cut a strip measuring 75mm off the top to make a window.
- Start by nailing one of the sides onto the back plate through the back; then nail on the floor and the other panel
- Nail all the other panels into place except for the roof panel.
- You will need to drill some small holes (1-2mm diameter into the floor panel to allow for drainage)
- Fix on the roof panel with a rubber flap ’hinge’ made from scrap rubber. This should cover the join between the roof and back plate completely so as to be waterproof. Nail the rubber into the back plate first, then pull it tightly over the join and nail it onto the roof. The roof should be able to lift away like a lid.
- Time to decorate! Avoid painting inside and around the entrance of the nest box in case the birds peck the wood away and ingest paint chips.
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Tips for Putting Up Your Nest Box
- Don’t place it too close to another box, this could promote aggressive behaviour between birds.
- Make sure the box isn’t facing direct sunlight and is sheltered from wind and rain.
- The height from the ground should be 3 metres. If you don’t have a tree in your garden, place it on your shed or garage.
- Ensure predators like cats can’t get into the box.
- Try not to place it near a bird feeder as this can be noisy and disturb nesting birds.
- Use stainless steel screws or wire to attach the box to the tree but make sure it is fully secure.
Looking After Your Nest Box
Nest boxes should be cleaned out yearly between September 1st and January 31st. Make sure you check the nest first to make sure the birds are no longer nesting. Some birds nest earlier/later than others. Cleaning out the nest box and removing old nests is a great way to reduce parasites leading up to the following breeding season.
The use of water-based paint on the outside can help to extend the life of your nest box. If you see any cracks/chips, just paint over them to preserve your box for longer.
Getting More Information
For more information on National Nest Box Week take a look at the BTO website. It’s full of information about how to make a nest box, what to look for and how you can help!