Bird Houses are Crucial
for Cavity-Nesting Birds

Wild birds that will nest in bird houses (nest boxes) are called cavity-nesters.

First you must understand the types of wild birds you are trying to attract.

Are they in your area?

Do you offer or provide the ideal habitat that will attract them?

Will they use bird houses?

Habitat may be an open field, a shrub and tree filled yard, at woods edge or a wooded lot or maybe a dead tree (snag).

Are you an urban dweller or do you live in a rural or country setting?

There are 85 species of North American breeding birds that select or construct a cavity for their nest.

Around three dozen species will gladly use man made structures.

Some cavity-nesters, like woodpeckers will create a hole in a dead or dying tree (snag).

Some species will use an abandoned hole or a naturally created cavity in a tree.

Others are more opportunistic.

Stripping of woodlands and removing of old hedge and fence-rows removes many cavity sights of theses birds.

Since most of us prefer not to have dead or dying trees in our yards, (or neighborhood associations don't allow it) there has been a reduction in suitable nesting sites for cavity nesters.

Non-native and more aggressive species of birds like English house sparrows and European starlings compete for and often take over cavities and bird houses our native birds require.

For example, English sparrows often kill mother bluebird while she is sitting on her eggs. They will kill the babies and/or destroy eggs.

If birds can't find a cavity to lay eggs in, they wont reproduce.

This has caused a decline in the population of many of our native birds.

Adding Bird Houses to Your Yard:

Nest sites for cavity-nesting birds usually are in shorter supply than food and water.

Placing a bird house or two in your yard will not only go a long way to support the population of cavity-nesting birds, but it can be gratifying for us bird-watchers, too.

Just imagine the thrill of seeing a mated pair of birds enter the nest boxes you provided.

This gives the new wood look a chance to age and most cavity-nesters are early birds when it comes to nesting.

You watch as they gather articles to construct their nest. They seem to be in constant motion, taking the materials into the nest box.

Soon you notice that the activity has stopped. You may wonder, what has happened?

Now you only see one of the parents come out of the nest box at a time. Then you realize, they must be caring for their eggs. Several days later you hear an unfamiliar sound coming from the bird house.

You hear faint sounds of chirping.

The eggs have hatched!

In an out of the hole the parents traverse. Often hundreds of times a day as they make food runs to feed their always hungry brood.

Now you wait, hoping to see the hatchlings emerge from the nest box. (For a few dollars more, you can often buy nest boxes designed for observing.)

There are few backyard birding experiences as satisfying as watching the young birds fledge.

An often debated question is, "when do you put up bird houses"?

There is no wrong time to to put up nest boxes, but fall to early winter seems to be the best time.

They begin house hunting as early as January or February.

Most Chickadees, Titmice, Woodpeckers and Bluebirds are sitting on eggs by March or April.

Male house wrens arrive before females in spring migration, try to make up for lost time by constructing nests in several bird houses that only need the female's approval when she finally arrives.

Don't fret if you've missed the time of the first nesting.

It happens all the time.

You may get a nest box for you birthday or some other occasion. Put it up as soon as you can.

Some birds are late arrivals or they may have been evicted from another location.

Find a right location and get it up.

In the fall and winter, Bluebirds are spotted checking out locations and woodpeckers may make it a winter spot and soon to be nest location.

Birds also prefer the natural look of wood and the aged wood look is in for birds.

Nest boxes also work as roosting spots on cold winter nights, so get that box up now.

The ideal nest box should be constructed out of 3/4" natural wood. Cedar and Redwood work best and last a long time.

Zinc plated screws should be used instead of staple or nails.

Be sure your box has the proper sized hole and no perches.

Maintaining Your Nest Boxes

Nest Box Placement

Monitor Your Boxes


Common Cavity Nesting Birds

Growing Birdhouse Gourds

Make Bird Houses from Gourds

Offer Fresh Water

Native Tree for Food and Protection

Native Shrubs for Food and Protection

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