National Nest Box Week 2021
"Britain needs more nest boxes!"
What is National Nest Box Week?
National Nest Box Week is an annual event to encourage people to put up nest boxes in their gardens. It has been running for over 20 years and always starts on the same day each year, Valentine's Day, 14th February. National Nest Box Week aims to help offer breeding birds a place to nest, promoting UK birds' conservation and growth!
The event is now an essential part of the ornithological calendar, and its start date is no coincidence. St Valentine's Day is the traditional date when birds pair up for the new breeding season. If you've heard an increase in birdsong recently, the reason is most likely due to birds establishing breeding territories. A lot of these songs will be attempts in attracting potential mates to nest. Why not join the thousands of other nature enthusiasts across the UK this year and put up a few nest boxes in your garden!
Why are nest boxes so important?
Birds use nest boxes as many of their natural nest sites disappear from our gardens and the surrounding environment. This loss is due to the declining number of wooded areas, hedgerows and large trees available. Birds must find safe alternatives for somewhere to build their nests. This shortage of natural nesting sites for birds has played a part in the decline of some of the UK's most iconic species. However, we can do our bit to help. By providing safe nest sites, feeders and birdbaths in our gardens or outdoor spaces, we can keep our native birds healthy and happy.
How do you attract birds to a nest box?
The best type of nest box is one that is in use! Meaning you must have species of birds that make nests in cavities visiting your garden. The birds most likely to use nest boxes are blue tits, coal tits and other members of the tit family. Sparrows, robins and wrens may also take up residence. To attract these species of birds try placing some bird feeders near your nest box. The food on offer will hopefully encourage birds to start exploring your garden. Try using peanuts and sunflower seeds for tits and mealworms for robins, wrens and thrushes. Remember that activity at the feeder could disturb nesting birds. So, make sure you move the bird feeders away from the nest boxes once the birds have found them.
What birds' nest in boxes?
Generally speaking, the two main types of nest boxes are the recognisable classic, hole in the front nest box and the open-fronted nest box. Different species of birds prefer one kind of nest box to the other. For the bird species that use the hole at the front nest box, the most critical aspect is the hole's size.
The size of the entrance hole depends on the species you have in your garden or are trying to attract:
- 25 mm for coal, marsh and blue tits
- 28 mm for tree sparrows, flycatchers and great tits
- 32 mm for nuthatches and house sparrows
- 45 mm for starlings and woodpeckers
The species that prefer the open-fronted nest boxes include robin, wren and pied wagtail.
Remember that larger birds like doves, owls and other birds of prey need safe places to nest. We have a wide variety of larger entranced nest boxes specially made to meet these birds' requirements here.
What are the best nest boxes?
No one box design fits all birds. For example, tits prefer smaller boxes with smaller entry holes. In contrast, a robin will choose to nest in an open-fronted box. Pick a nest box that is not only in keeping with your garden style but one that will be best used for the birds in the surrounding area if you live near wooded areas or in the countryside. You might try a giant nest box to attract birds like woodpeckers or owls. These wouldn't see much action in urban areas where the smaller nest boxes for tits, finches and sparrows will be more successful.
Perches are not necessary and can benefit predators more than the birds. Predators can use the perch as they try to reach in for the chicks or eggs. Drainage holes located at the bottom can be a useful addition to holes for ventilation as you'll need to clear out the nest box once a year, or after use. An easy-access lid, side or bottom for cleaning will prove to be highly beneficial.
Where is the best place to put a nest box?
Bird nest boxes must protect the inhabitants from predators and the worst of the weather. They must provide safe, comfortable environments. If they don't, the nest box will remain empty. Positioning your nest box out of reach of predators such as squirrels, rodents and cats may also leave it exposed to the weather so take your time to find the best location.
The nest box should be sited on a tree, wall, fence or building at least 1.5m – 2m above the ground. They should be situated away from easy access by cats and predators. Many people make the mistake of positioning their bird boxes too high up. Garden birds tend to prefer to nest in shrubs, small trees and bushes nearer to the ground so try to find a safe and similar position to places where they'd naturally build their nests.
In the UK, the ideal aspect is facing east, SE and NE are also acceptable. This position will hopefully ensure shelter from rain and intense sunlight. The entrance hole's direction should be away from the prevailing wind, and having a clear flight path to the box can also be beneficial. Positioning the box with a slight downward angle can also provide further protection from the rain.
Some species do have specific siting requirements for their nest boxes. For example, house martins and swifts' nests need to be under the eaves. Please see our product details for particular instructions for different species. The box should be left empty as wild birds often bring their nest material. Remember to place nest boxes away from feeders and baths and never disturb the birds once they're in the box.
Wherever you position the box, try to ensure that you can still access it for maintenance. Finally, if possible, try to put it somewhere where you can see it. Or invest in a nest box camera, to maximise your enjoyment of watching wild birds in your garden.