Specie Specific: As mentioned, your ability
to attract a particular type of bird depends on multiple criteria.
The most important of course is whether or not your bird house
dimensions are specifically geared to the species you wish to
Most people are surprised to
learn the types of birds that will not use a bird house, so before
you have visions of attracting you favorite wild birds, check out
this list of birds that will take you up on your offer. Ofcourse,
they can be very picky about where they stay and paying close
attention to their specific needs is crucial to your success, and
- Barrows Goldeneyes (Duck)
- Back Bellied Whistlings
- Commom Goldeneyes
- Common Mergansers
- Hooded Mergansers
- Wood Ducks
- American Kestrals
BIRDS YOU CAN ATTRACT TO NEST BOXES
Many of the birds that visit feeders and baths may stay and nest in
nearby trees. Most of them, including cardinals, doves and orioles, don't
nest in boxes. You can still help them by considering their food and
shelter requirements in your landscape plans. You can also hang out a wire
cage full of nesting materials (fiber scraps, twigs, wool, or feathers) in
More than two dozen North American birds will nest in bird houses. The
following descriptions will help you determine which birds might visit
If you put up a bluebird house near an old field, orchard, park,
cemetery, or golf course, you'll have a good chance of attracting a pair
of bluebirds. 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. Starlings
and house sparrows have been known to kill baby bluebirds as well as
adults sitting on the nest.
Bluebirds have problems with other animals too. The easiest way to
discourage predatory cats, snakes, raccoons, and chipmunks is to mount the
house on a metal pole, or use a metal predator guard on a wood post.
Robins are our largest thrushes. 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 excitement, as robins use mud to line their nests.
Chickadees, Nuthatches, and
Chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches share the same food, feeders,
and habitats. If you put a properly designed nest box in a wooded yard, at
least one pair is sure to 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" to attract chickadees
yet exclude house sparrows.
Anchor houses for hatches on tree trunks five to six feet off the
You can encourage these birds to stay in your yard by continuing to
fill your suet and peanut feeders through the summer.
Brown Creepers and Prothonotary
Look for brown creepers to nest behind the curved bark of tree
trunks. In heavily wooded yards, slab bark houses will appeal to creepers.
Prothonotary warblers also prefer slab bark houses, but theirs must be
placed over water.
Wrens don't seem to be very picky about where they nest. Try nest
boxes with a 1" x 2" horizontal slot (1-1/2" x 2-1/2" for the larger
Carolina wrens) instead of a circle. These are easier for the wrens to
Wrens are notorious for filling up any conceivable nest cavity with
twigs, regardless of whether they use the nest. 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.
Tree and Violet-green
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 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
If you have the right habitat, barn swallows and phoebes are easy
to attract. It's their nesting behavior, not their plumage or song, that
catches your attention. These birds tend to nest where you'd 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.
Many people want martins because, it's been said, these birds "can
eat 2,000 mosquitoes a day." While it's true that they eat flying insects,
don't expect purple martins to wipe out your mosquitoes. Martins actually
prefer dragonflies, insects which prey on mosquito larvae.
Mosquitoes are most active after sunset. If you want to rid your yard
of mosquitoes, put up a bat roosting box. One bat can eat thousands of
mosquitoes a night.
But don't cross martins off your prospective tenant list because they
don't live up to their "bug zapping" reputation. If you need a reason for
attracting them, these gregarious swallows put on a show that's better
than any television soap opera.
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 convenient 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 2-1/4 inch entrance
hole about an inch and a half 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, will make any house more appealing.
Gourds may also be made into houses by making an entrance hole and
providing 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 decide on a house, take the time to think about what kind of
pole you're going to put it on. Martins will occupy a house that's between
ten and twenty feet off the ground. Some poles are less cumbersome than
Gourd houses are the easiest to set up. You can string them:
- from a wire between two poles
- from a sectional aluminum pole
- on pulleys mounted to cross-bar high up on a pole.
Light-weight aluminum houses can be mounted on telescoping poles,
providing easy access for maintenance and inspection. Because of their
weight (well over 30 pounds), wood houses cannot be mounted on easy-access
telescoping poles. You'll have to use a sturdy metal or wood pole attached
to a pivot post. The problem with this "lowering" technique is that you
can't tilt the house without damaging the nests inside. If you put your
house on a shorter, fixed pole, ten to twelve feet high, you can use a
ladder to inspect and maintain it.
The great crested flycatcher and its western cousin, the
ash-throated flycatcher, are common in wooded suburbs. Their natural
nesting sites are abandoned woodpecker holes.
These flycatchers may nest in a bird house if it's placed about ten
feet up in a tree in an orchard or at the edge of a field or stream.
You can attract all the woodpeckers with a suet feeder, but only
the flicker and the red-bellied are 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
For best results, place the box high up on a tree trunk exposed to
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 houses.
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
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 a 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.
After you have done your homework as to the birds in your area and the
type of bird houses that will attract them, it is time to figure out the
best place to situate your bird house.