While a vast majority of birds love to build their nests in shrubs and trees, others prefer to nest in a cave, a hole in a dead tree or other natural cavities. Nuthatches, woodpeckers, wren, chickadees, trogons, and tyrant flycatchers are excellent examples of cavity-nesting birds in the US. If you are looking to attract or help out these cavity-nesting birds, you might want to provide them with a well-designed birdhouse.
You don’t need to be reminded that not all birdhouses and nesting boxes are created equal. For starters, different birds have different preferences for a birdhouse. Here are some of the nifty things you might want to consider when choosing the right birdhouse for your backyard or garden.
Choice of Material
Ideally, a natural wood birdhouse is preferable because those made out of plastics or metals can lead to excessive heat build-up during hot weather. It’s also crucial to stay away from wood that has been stained or treated with preservative. There should be holes on the bottom to drain away dirt, and ventilation holes on the side to facilitate air flow.
It also happens that birds love weathered/old wood as opposed to virgin lumber. That’s why birds prefer old birdhouses over new ones. No matter the material, you need to put up the perch by early spring.
While most bird species prefer the birdhouse to be attached directly to a tree, mounting it on a sturdy post or pole can help keep predators at bay. For extra protection against rodents, cats, and other predators, you might want to wrap the pole with stove pipe or metal sheet. On the same note, it’s good to place the birdhouse in an open area as birds enjoy a clear flight path. Besides, the entrance should be located away from the windy side.
What’s the Right Size?
Swallows, wrens, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, and other backyard bird species fancy a small birdhouse. Something with 4-5 inch base area and 6-10 inches in height can work just fine. You might want to opt for a broader and deeper birdhouse for other birds like owls, kestrels or wood ducks.
Entrance Hole Position and Size
For most bird species, the hole should be between a quarter-inch to 1.25 inches in diameter. The good news is that most bug-eating birds can squeeze through holes even small than ¼” in diameter. Position-wise, the hole should be 7”-10” above the base.
A good birdhouse should have a clean-out panel or door which makes housekeeping effortlessly easy.
That’s about it when it comes to picking the picture-perfect birdhouse. US Fish and Wildlife Service has an online bulletin that provides specific recommendations for each bird species.