Love is in the air for our garden birds as they busily prepare for the breeding season, preening their feathers to perfection and starting to sing again as males try to lure in the ladies and drive off any rivals. Soon they’ll be on the lookout for the best place to build a nest and raise a family: a cosy tree cavity, a dense thicket of ivy, a penthouse under the eaves – or perhaps a newly-built nest box.
February 14th marks the start of National Nest Box Week, so if you’d like to give a helping hand to your local lovebirds, now is a good time to put up a box or two. It’s important to choose the right design: blue tits, great tits and sparrows like an enclosed box with a small (32mm) entry hole; starlings need a bigger box with a larger (45mm) entrance; whereas robins, blackbirds, thrushes and wrens prefer an open-fronted box. A good quality nest box will be made of thick wood or Woodcrete so that it’s waterproof and well insulated to protect the occupants from getting too hot or too cold.
Once your bird box is ready, it’s all down to location. Choose a sheltered spot away from the prevailing wind, rain and direct sunlight, either on a tree, fence or wall. Face nest boxes between north and east; small-hole boxes should be fixed at a height of 2 – 4 metres with a clear flight path to the entrance, whereas open-fronted boxes need to be lower down and hidden from view amongst vegetation. Starlings and sparrows like to be high up and tend to nest in loose colonies, so you could space out several boxes under the eaves on the same side of the house to encourage these birds to breed. There’s no need to add any nesting materials as the birds will find their own.