Bird Houses and Nesting

Bird houses are another great way of attracting birds to your backyard. In the spring birds will begin to stake their territory in which to build their nest. Birds who build their nests in cavities will use bird houses, log piles, or tree cavities left by woodpeckers. Some cavity nesters on Vancouver Island are: chickadees, wrens, house sparrows, nuthatches, starlings and swallows. Birds like the dark eyed junco or spotted towhee will build their nest on the ground, commonly around shrubbery and twigs. Finches and robins build their nests in trees at heights often 10′ and higher.

What to look for in a bird house?
The size of the entrance hole on the bird house will influence the type of bird that uses the house. For small birds like chickadees and wrens, a 1″ hole will suffice. Nuthatches are a bit of a larger bird and require a 1 3/8″ hole for nesting. And entrance hole of 1 1/2″  is good for swallows and house sparrows. Starlings and Northern flickers will also use a bird house with an entrance hole of 1.5″ or larger. The entrance hole should be 6 – 7″ above the floor, as this provides protection to the nest. The floor size should be approximately 5×5″ and the house should have ventilation, drainage holes, and a way to access the inside of the bird house to be able to clean it out each year.

When choosing a bird house, pay attention to

  • Size of the entrance hole. It’s important for attracting various species and to stop predator birds from accessing the nest box
  • Perches are not necessary on bird houses as they aid predator birds trying to gain access to the nest
  • Maintaining your bird house is as simple as a yearly cleaning. Start by removing the old nest from the house. Using a soapy water, disinfectant solution (we recommend dilute bleach (9 parts water to 1 part bleach) to wash the inside of your bird house to kill any parasites. After cleaning the bird house rinse it thoroughly with clean water and leave it to air dry.
  • Ventilation is necessary to help keep the bird house interior cool, as birds have an easier time warming up versus cooling down
  • Placement of your bird house should be 6′ above the ground and approximately 10′ away from any other bird house, bird feeder or bird bath. The entrance hole should be facing away from the wind and rain. 
  • Predators like raccoons and cats will try to gain access to your bird house. You can help keep predators out by placing metal sheeting around the pole or tree, preventing predators from climbing to the nest box. If your bird house has a perch, it should be very short and close to the entrance hole.

Bird Nest Materials
Birds use many different materials to build their nests. They use grass, twigs, spider webs, animal fur, mud, and many others. You can help the birds by providing nesting material for them. Try this by hanging out dog hair in a onion sack in a open, dry area for birds to get at. Or by hanging the fluffy material from cattail grasses around ponds. Ready to use nesting material can also be purchased. Providing nesting materials will help birds insulate their nests.