Why Birds Won't Visit Your Nest Box

You’ve put up a bird box in your garden and you’re looking forward to the day a pair of birds decide to move in and make it their home in which to bring up their chicks. 

Blue Tits In A Nest Box

But what happens if you don’t get any birds visiting your next box? It can be frustrating to see an empty box but here are a number of things that may put birds off using your nest box. Here are some of the most common problems and advice on how to fix them.

Only certain birds will use bird boxes so if you don’t have birds that make nests in cavities visiting your garden then your next box will remain empty. The birds most likely to use nest boxes are blue tits or coal tits, but sparrows, nuthatches, robins, woodpeckers, and wrens, as well as other members of the tit family may all take up residence.

To attract the species of birds that will use nest boxes put out some bird feeders and food and place them near to your next box to encourage birds to start exploring your garden. Try putting out peanuts or sunflower hearts for tits, suet for woodpeckers and nuthatches, and mealworms for robins, wrens, and thrushes. Once birds have found your nest boxes move the feeders away from them as activity at the feeder could disturb nesting birds.

You also need to ensure that the bird boxes you put up are suitable for the birds that visit your garden. For example, robins prefer open-fronted nest boxes, while tits prefer smaller boxes with smaller entry holes.

Which box for which bird?

Choose the right size hole

Make sure your bird box is placed at the right height. Many people make the mistake of positioning their bird boxes too high up. However, garden birds tend to prefer to nest nearer the ground in shrubs and bushes so find a position that is similar to the places where birds would naturally build their nests.

Birds will always look for somewhere safe to build their nests so if your bird house is vulnerable to predators such as cats, squirrels or rodents they will not use it. Position your bird box out of reach of predators and you could include safety features such as baffles to help protect birds using it. Use nest box plates to protect the entrance hole and prevent predators being able to make it bigger and get at the eggs or hatchlings inside.

Predators and nest boxes

Keep birds and their chicks safe

If possible you should keep your bird boxes up all year round which will give your garden birds the chance to get used to them. If you leave it till spring to put up new nest boxes then that will be too late as birds will already have found somewhere to build their nests. Put new boxes up during the winter which gives birds time to find them as well as some much-needed shelter during the colder months.

Most bird boxes don’t need to be treated or painted but if you want to, then be aware that a brightly painted box may attract predators and put off birds from nesting in it. Always use paint water-soluble and non-toxic.

Painting a bird box

Prolong the life of your Bir box

Between each breeding season clean out your nest boxes and make any necessary repairs. Birds will not use old nests and dirty nest boxes can be potentially hazardous. Remember you can only clean out nest boxes between the 1st September and the 31st January in England and Wales and between 1st August and the 31st January in Scotland to comply with the General Licence for the removal of abandoned or unsuccessful eggs from the nests of wild birds

It may take a couple of seasons before birds start to use your nest box so sometimes the only thing that’s needed is a little patience. But hopefully, once they know that the home you’ve provided for them is a safe place for them to rear their young they will return each year.

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