Providing birds with a place to nest can really make a difference.
You don’t need to have a garden - if there is somewhere that you can put a nesting box safely, that can help. Small birds nest in cavities in buildings (for example ventilation grills), so a nesting box will seem just right.
You can make yourself a nesting box very easily out of wood. There are lots of plans available on web sites, including plans for palatial residences and sparrow terraces but we are going to build a simple one to the design shown.
A single plank of wood 15 x 130 cm is sufficient. If using plywood, only use exterior grade or marine ply. Use wood preservative (water-based) on the outside only and keep it away from the edges of the entrance hole where the birds will often peck at the wood. A piece of roofing felt on the sloping roof will help to keep the wood dry.
1. Mark out your plank of wood. Here are the dimensions of the different sections, assuming your wood is 2 cm thick:
2. Drill a hole 4-5 cms in diameter in the front section
3. Cut out the sections
4. Use brass or coated screws to assemble the sections
5. Use a hinge to attach the lid
6. Cut a piece of roofing felt (or similar waterproof material) to cover the roof, leaving a small overlap
7. Apply wood preservative to exterior.
Where should I site my next box?
There are a few aspects to consider:
Safety: two metres or more above the ground keeps it away from predators (and your head!).
Weather: avoid direct sunlight and site away from the prevailing wind and rain. Make sure that the inside will remain dry.
Easy access for birds: if you can, site the box near a tree or other perch so that the bird can alight ouside the box before entering. However, don’t provide a route for predators.
Fix the box securely, but consider how you are going to get it down to clean, in October. A screw to hang the box from and a rope or wire around the box and tree trunk would be suitable, but nails are not a good idea as they tend to remain in the tree as a potential hazard for chain saws in years to come.
Sterilise the inside with hot water to get rid of any parasites. If there are unhatched eggs in the box you must dispose of them, as keeping them is illegal. After the box has dried out, replace it as birds may use it as a refuge during the winter bad weather.
Make sure that you can observe the nest box from a distance and regularly check for signs of occupation. Do keep records of what you see so that you can compare one year with another. Use our forums to exchange information with other observers.