We’ve gone through January, we’ve had Blue Monday but sometimes it can still feel a bit slow at this time of year. I don’t know about you but I yearn to be in the garden.
Cue National NestBox Week run by the BTO. It’s a great chance to get outside, feel the fresh air on your face, listen to the bird song and know that you’re making an impact on the lives of your Garden Crowd.
Organised by the British Trust for Ornithology, it takes place from 14–21 February and encourages everyone who has the space to provide a haven for our feathered friends.
With natural habitats such as trees and hedgerows being lost to development every year, nest boxes can represent an essential place for species including sparrows, Blue Tits and Robins to lay their eggs and raise chicks, so it’s a worthy cause to get involved with. Indeed, over 60 species are known to use some form of nest box.
When should I put up my nestbox?
This week is dedicated to it, but there is no reason why you can’t start sooner or a little later (although don’t leave it too long!) Make sure to get outside and put them up before the end of February so you stand a reasonable chance of it being occupied this year.
If you’re lucky, you might even attract some birds to raise more than one brood in your box, as House Sparrows, Robins and many more will nest more than once during each year’s breeding season.
What nestbox should I choose?
Remember nestboxes come in all shapes and sizes for a range of different birds — don’t forget your lower nesting birds like Robins, Wrens and Dunnocks.
Tits prefer to be higher up in a nest box with a small hole entrance.
There’s a brilliant guide online at https://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/nrs/publications/bto-nestbox-guide
There are lots of nest box styles around, but look for those that have drainage holes, natural-looking designs and materials treated with safe preservatives. The entrance holes should also be at a height that doesn’t allow predators to reach in and scoop chicks out.
Don’t choose plastic as it can overheat in the sun and cook the birds inside, a material like wood is much better for the birds.
Where should I place the nestbox?
Birds need nest sites where they feel safe and sheltered, so place yours away from sites such as the top of fences that make life easy for predators, and protect from strong sunlight and prevailing winds and rain.
This means, in most places, facing North East is the best option. Choose a spot somewhere between north, east and south-east. This will also mean that the early morning sun will gently warm the box after a cold night.
Walls tend to be a better choice than trees since cats find it more difficult to scale them, but you can plant dense and prickly bushes around trees to deter them if you haven’t got suitable walls. In terms of height, around 1.5 metres to 5.5 metres is ideal, with at least 3 metres recommended if your garden is frequented by cats.
Another good point is to avoid putting your boxes too close to feeding stations as the regular presence of other birds of the same species in their territory will make the parent birds focus on driving out competitors rather than feeding their young.
It is best to position them where you can enjoy it too, but don’t go over to the nestbox all the time, this will scare the parents and they might abandon their chicks in the nest. If you want to keep an eye on them then investing in a camera would be a great way to do it. We fully recommend the ones from Green Feathers — they’re great!
What should I feed nesting birds?
Birds use up a lot of energy in the building up and during nesting season. Keeping them topped up with nutritious food is a must. We have the Nest & Fledgling mix which is perfect for both parents and their brood.
Suet is also a great option for birds nesting in the colder months.
Don’t forget never leave out whole peanuts as baby birds might choke.