Birds that nest in cavities may use nest boxes. Some are primary cavity nesters, such as woodpeckers, who chisel out cavities. Others are secondary cavity nesters, using natural cavities and those created by other species.
Predator-proofing | Species Tips | Plans | Dimensions
Good Construction | Predator-proofing | Species Tips | Dimensions
- Good Construction
- The wood is 3/4" thick, untreated, unfinished, and weather-resistant such as cypress or redwood.
- The wood is rough-cut or grooves have been cut on the inside of the front to help the young climb out.
- The entrance hole is the proper size and height.
- There are tiny drainage holes in the floor.
- There is no perch (see predator-proofing).
- There are holes drilled near the tops of the sides, or a small gap between the roof and sides to provide ventilation.
- A sloping roof slightly larger than the nest box will help keep it dry.
- A hinged roof or side makes it easier to clean the nest box when the occupants move on.
- Do not add a perch -- it will assist predators.
- A squirrel baffle or length of 4-5" diameter pipe attached just below the nest box will help deter cats and raccoons if the nest box is pole-mounted.
- A strip of galvanized metal 3 feet wide wrapped around the trunk will help protect tree-mounted nest boxes.
- A 3" long tube of plastic or hardware cloth can be attached to the entrance hole.
- A metal guard placed around the entrance hole will prevent squirrels from enlarging it.
- Territorial limits usually apply only to birds of the same species. Some will defend their territories against species with similar resource requirements.
- Bluebird nest boxes should be placed on a post facing an open area. They have suffered seriously from habitat destruction and competition from starlings and house sparrows. The North American Bluebird Society has specific information on how to help.
- Duck nest boxes need predator guards. Place 2-4" of sawdust in the bottom to cushion the eggs.
- Kestrel nest boxes should be placed at the edges of open areas.
- Nest boxes or shelves for Barn Owls can be placed inside buildings or outside high under the eaves.
- Screech Owls prefer nest boxes in open woods or facing an open area.
- Nest boxes for Woodpeckers need 3-4" of sawdust in the bottom to cushion the eggs.
Good Construction | Predator-proofing | Species Tips | Plans
- A simple nest box can be built from a length of 3/4" thick lumber. The diagram below shows how a 4-foot length of 1" x 6" lumber (it's sold as 6" but is actually 5.5" wide) to make a nest box with a 4" x 4" floor:
- Similarly, a 6" x 6" nest box can be made from a 1" x 8", an 8" x 8" nest box can be cut from a 1" x 10", and a 10" x 10" nest box can be cut from a 1" x 12".
- Once the lumber is cut, prepare each piece:
- Drill holes near the tops of the sides for ventilation, in the floor for drainage, and an inch from the top of the back for mounting.
- If you're going to mount the box on a pole, drill two holes in the middle of the back to run wire through.
- Cut the entrance hole.
- Using a chisel or drill, make some horizontal grooves on the inside of the front below the entrance hole to serve as a "ladder" for the young when it's time for them to climb out.
- Now you're ready to assemble the parts:
- Nail the sides to the back. On one side, drive the nail 7-7.5" from the bottom -- so it will be even with the top nail holding the front to the side. This creates a hinge so the side can be opened.
- Attach the front and the roof.
- Attach the floor using a screw on the hinged side.
- If there is a gap where the roof meets the back, tack a piece of leather or glue a dowel over the seam.
Good Construction | Predator-proofing | Species Tips | Plans | Dimensions
[ Florida's Birds ]
- The most important dimension is the size of the entrance hole. It is also important that the entrance hole be the proper height from the floor. This serves two purposes: it keeps the young in and makes it more difficult for predators to get to the eggs or young.
Check the species tips for specific needs of the birds you hope to attract.
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