Bird House Selection
Nesting Box Chart
Protection from Predators
Landscaping for Birds
Martin Bird Houses
Wren & Chickadee House
If you put up a bluebird house near an old field, orchard, park,
cemetery or golf course, you might have a chance of attracting a pair
They prefer nest boxes on a tree stump or wooden
fence post between three and five feet high. Bluebirds also nest in
abandoned woodpecker nest holes.
The most important measurement is the hole diameter. An inch and
a half is small enough to deter starlings, which, along with house
sparrows, have been known to kill bluebirds, as well as adults sitting
on the nest. Bluebirds have problems with other animals too.
Discourage cats, snakes, raccoons and chipmunks by mounting the
house on a metal pole, or use a metal predator guard on a wood
The robin is our largest thrush. They prefer to build their nest in the
crotch of a tree. If you don't have an appropriate tree, you can offer a
nesting platform. Pick a spot six feet or higher up on a shaded tree
trunk or under the overhang of a shed or porch. Creating a "mud
puddle" nearby offers further enticement, as robins use mud to hold
their nests together.
Wrens don't seem to be very picky about where they nest. Try nest
boxes with a 1 inch x 2 inch horizontal slot (1 1/2 inch x 2 1/2 inch for
the larger Carolina wrens) instead of a circle. These are easier for
the wrens to use. However, the larger the opening, the more likely it is
house sparrows will occupy the box.
Wrens are known for filling a nest cavity with twigs, regardless of
whether they use the nest to raise their young. Since male house
wrens build several nests for the female to choose from, hang
several nest boxes at eye level on partly sunlit tree limbs. Wrens are
sociable and will accept nest boxes quite close to your house.
Many people want martins in their yards because, it's been said,
these birds eat 2,000 mosquitoes a day. While it's true that they eat
flying insects, don't expect purple martins to eliminate mosquitoes in
your yard completely Martins prefer dragonflies, which prey on
mosquito larvae. If you want to help rid your yard of mosquitoes, put
up a bat roosting box. One bat can eat thousands of mosquitoes a
Martins are entertaining creatures, however, and you'll enjoy watching their antics in your backyard. You have the best chance of attracting martins if you put a house on the edge of a pond or river, surrounded by a field or lawn. Martins need a radius of about 40 feet of unobstructed flying space around their houses. A telephone wire nearby gives them a place to perch in sociable groups.
Martins nest in groups, so you'll need a house with a minimum of four
large rooms-6 or more inches on all sides, with a 2 1/2 inch entrance
hole about 1 1/2 inches above the floor. Ventilation and drainage are
critical factors in martin house design. Porches, railings, porch
dividers and supplemental roof perches, like a TV antenna, make any
house more appealing.
You can also make houses from gourds by fashioning an entrance
hole and small holes in the bottom for drainage. If you use gourds, it's
not necessary to add railings and perches. Adult martins will perch
on the wire used to hang the houses. Before you select a house,
think about what kind of pole you're going to put it on. Martins occupy
a house ten to twenty feet off the ground. Some poles are less
cumbersome than others.
Chickadees, Nuthatches and Titmice
Chickadees, titmice and nuthatches share the same food, feeders, and habitat. If you put a properly designed nest box in a wooded yard, at least one of these species might check it out. Put chickadee houses at eye level. Hang them from limbs or secure them to tree trunks. The entrance hole should be 1 1/8 inches to attract chickadees, yet exclude house sparrows. Anchor houses for nuthatches on tree trunks five to six feet off the ground.
Brown Creepers and Prothonotary Warblers
Look for brown creepers to nest behind the curved bark of tree trunks. In heavily wooded yards, slab bark houses appeal to creepers. Prothonotary warblers also prefer slab bark houses, or bluebird boxes attached to a tree trunk, but theirs must be placed over water (lakes, rivers or swamps) with a good canopy of trees overhead.
Tree and Violet--green Swallows
Tree swallows prefer nest boxes attached to dead trees. Space the boxes about seven feet apart for these white-bellied birds with iridescent blue-green backs and wings. The ideal setting for these insect-eaters is on the edge of a large field near a lake, pond or river.
Violet-green swallows nest in forested mountains of the West; boxes placed on large trees in a semi-open woodland will attract them.
Barn Swallows and Phoebes
If you have the right habitat, like an open barn or old shed, barn swallows and phoebes are easy to attract. It's their nesting behavior, not their plumage or song, that catches your attention. However, these birds tend to nest where you would rather not have them: on a ledge right over your front door. To avoid a mess by your door, offer the birds a nesting shelf nearby where you'd rather have them.
The great crested flycatcher and its western cousin, the ash-throated flycatcher, are common in wooded suburbs and rural areas with wood lots. Their natural nesting sites are abandoned woodpecker holes. Flycatchers may nest in a bird house if it is placed about ten feet up in a tree in an orchard or at the edge of a field or stream. This is a longshot, but well worth the effort if you are successful.
You can attract all types of woodpeckers with a suet feeder, but only the flicker is likely to use a bird house. They prefer a box with roughened interior and a floor covered with a two-inch layer of wood chips or coarse sawdust. Flickers are especially attracted to nest boxes filled with sawdust, which they "excavate" to suit themselves. For best results, place the box high up on a tree trunk, exposed to direct sunlight.
Most owls seldom build their own nests. Great horned and long-eared
owls prefer abandoned crow and hawk nests. Other owls (barred,
barn, saw-whet, boreal and screech) nest in tree cavities and bird
Barn owls are best known for selecting nesting sites near farms.
Where trees are sparse, these birds will nest in church steeples,
silos and barns. If you live near a farm or a golf course, try fastening
a nest box for owls about 15 feet up on a tree trunk.
Screech owls prefer abandoned woodpecker holes at the edge of a
field or neglected orchard. They will readily take to boxes lined with an
inch or two of wood shavings. If you clean the box out in late spring
after the young owls have fledged, you may attract a second tenant-a
kestrel. Trees isolated from larger tracts of woods have less chance
of squirrels taking over the box.
Be sure to provide ventilation, drainage, and easy access for maintenance and monitoring. Concrete (or a mix of concrete and sawdust) offers protection other houses cannot: squirrels can't chew their way in.