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 theirs.
- 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 your neighborhood.
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
Nuthatches, and Titmice
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
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 ground.
You can encourage these birds to stay in your yard by
continuing to fill your suet and peanut feeders through the
and Prothonotary Warblers
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 use.
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 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
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
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
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 others.
Gourd houses are the easiest to set up. You can string
- 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 themselves.
For best results, place the box high up on a tree trunk
exposed to direct sunlight.
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
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