As you may be already aware, it’s National Nestbox Week this week (14-21 Feb). First established in 1997 by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and birdcare supplier Jacobi Jayne, National Nestbox Week aims to encourage everyone to provide extra homes for birds. Traditionally nestboxes have been put up in early Spring, ready for the nesting season, although many birds are already looking around for the perfect nesting site. Boxes put up in the Autumn can provide cosy roosting sites, so the advice is to put up boxes whenever they are ready!
There are plenty of places to buy nestboxes but it can be very satisfying to make one yourself. Organisations such as the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts have online instructions for building a simple nestbox. There are some links at the bottom of this post. It’s a great activity to do with groups of children. They can hone their carpentry skills, while learning about the different bird species and the importance of providing a safe place for birds to roost and nest.
The populations of many of our wild bird species are in decline and a major factor in that decline is the lack of suitable habitat for the birds to feed and nest. More land is being built on, and gardens and green spaces are getting tidier, pushing the birds out.
Nestboxes come in many shapes and sizes. Different bird species have different housing requirements. Birds like Tree Sparrows like to nest in colonies so favour many single nestboxes close together, or a terrace type nestbox – just like terrace housing! Tree Creeper boxes are wedge shaped, with a hole in the side of the box near where it attaches to the tree. Swift boxes are an oblong box with a narrow slit entrance. On the subject of Swifts, the RSPB has been working with house builders to get Swift bricks incorporated into new buildings and renovations. They are aiming to get another 1000 Swift nestboxes put up before the birds arrive back in the UK in April. You can find out more about the project on the Swifts page of the RSPB website.
The siting of nestboxes depends on the birds you are trying to attract. For most nestboxes the trunks of trees are ideal but if you don’t have trees in your garden, the side of your house or a shed will do. Swift boxes need to be sited under the eaves of a building. Swallows prefer nooks and crannies in outbuildings. Open fronted boxes will need to be protected by a covering of foliage. All boxes should be sited out of reach of cats, with the entrance hole facing in a northerly direction, if possible, away from the prevailing wind and rain.
Instructions to make your own nestbox:
Find out more about National Nestbox Week at https://www.nestboxweek.com/