New to Nest Boxes?

For many of us the natural next step to feeding our garden birds is to provide them with a place to set up home and raise a family but where to start?

Every garden is different, if you’re thinking about a nest box start with the birds. Which birds do you see regularly in your garden? Some birds will readily use next boxes eg. Blue Tits and Great Tits while others such as Song Thrushes and Collared Doves are not nest box users. Some species like House Sparrows will nest in loose colonies, others like Robins are very territorial and will only nest one pair to a territory.

Once you have identified your target species you can use our handy guide below to choosing the right box front.

25mm – Blue Tit and Coal Tit

28mm – Great Tit and Tree Sparrow

32mm – House Sparrow and Nuthatch

Open-fronted – Robin, Pied Wagtail and Spotted Flycatcher

Different birds occupy different spaces too, for example House Martin boxes should be positioned on the soffit of a house to be successful whereas a nest box with a hole designed for Blue Tits can be secured in many different locations and still be occupied.

Great Tit Nest
Sparrow Nest Box
Robin Nest

February is the ideal month to add a nest box (or two) to your garden as many of the species that may occupy a nest box are beginning to think about the breeding season ahead and take an interest in potential nest sites. Don’t worry too much though as nest boxes can be introduced at any time of the year and provide safe roost sites even if they are not used by breeding birds in the first year.

Once you receive your nest box and your ready for installation there are a number of things to consider.

Height – when fitting your nest box, ensure it’s high enough so birds cannot be disturbed by family pets or people, especially during breeding season. If you’re looking to attract sparrows, starlings or tits, fixing your next box 3/4 metres up a wall or tree would be ideal.

Avoiding direct sunlight and wind – chicks will spend a few weeks inside the box so avoiding direct sunlight and prevailing wind will make the nest box more comfortable for them.

Keep clear of feeders – try to position your nest box away from feeders as this avoids birds using up lots of energy defending their territory against other birds visiting the feeders.

Predators – high enough to avoid cats jumping, far enough away from branches that provide perches to Magpies and Crows to sit and pick out the chicks when they take a look outside.

Protect trees – fixing a nest box to a tree with nails could damage the tree. An alternative would be to use a nylon bolt, or wire wrapped around the tree trunk.

Don’t just stop at your garden though, there are many places that could benefit from having nest boxes that provide homes to birds and offer the opportunity for people to connect to nature. Community gardens, workplaces, village greens. Why not get together with your neighbours and think about seeking permission to add some nest boxes in your local area for National Nest Box Week (14-21 February) and do let us know what you achieve.


Our Garden Birder’s Diary is written by Northumberland-based birder Alan Tilmouth who has been birdwatching for over 30 years and writing about birds in various guises for the last decade. A keen garden birdwatcher, he also manages to unearth the odd rare bird on his travels. You can find Alan on Twitter and his Facebook blog.