Tips for Attracting a Nesting Bird

Attracting a Nesting Bird to Your Backyard

Rob Ripma

Although there is still snow falling here in Indiana, everyone is starting to dream of spring and the start of  nesting season for our feathered friends. I am regularly asked many questions about how best to attract nesting bird species through my work with Wild Birds Unlimited and various speaking engagements, so here’s my list of best tips for attracting nesting birds.

Eastern Bluebirds are known to love using nesting boxes!

Eastern Bluebirds are known to love using nesting boxes!

1. Choose a Nesting Box with the Proper Size Hole for the Species You Hope to Attract.

It’s really important to select the proper box for the birds that you would like to attract. Different birds prefer different hole sizes and different box sizes. Chickadees and most wrens prefer a box with a hole around 1 1/8″ in diameter, but bluebirds need the hole to be 1 1/2″ in order to get into the box. This also helps keep unwanted birds or predators away.

2. Be Sure to Point the Nesting Box in the Proper Direction.

Make sure you point the opening of your nesting box in an easterly direction. Most weather systems come from the west, so having your nest box(es) facing east will help avoid rain coming in through the entrance hole.

3. Consider Putting Predator Guards on Your Nesting Boxes.

There are a variety of predators that are interested in eating eggs and baby birds. Predators range from snakes to raccoons, but the threat can be minimized by adding a predator guard or baffle to the pole that you put your nesting box on. An 8″ diameter baffle will offer you the most protection.

Although this entrance hole is too large for a Carolina Wren to use for nesting, it sure does seem to like roosting in it!

Although this entrance hole is too large for a Carolina Wren to use for nesting, it sure does seem to like roosting in it!

4. If You Have Questions, Talk to an Expert.

There are many things to consider when choosing a nesting box, and if the options are overwhelming, just talk to an expert. Leave a message for me in the comment box or talk to someone at your local bird feeding store such as Wild Birds Unlimited. Some nesting boxes such as those for Purple Martins are complicated and have very precise specifications, so you will want to be sure to get more information before you purchase this type of box.

5. Leave Dead Trees Standing.

If it is safe to do so, leave dead trees standing in your yard. There is nothing quite like natural nesting locations for cavity nesting birds such as woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches.

  1. Dotti Kyler says

    I have bluebirds trying to build in my bluebird box. The box has a predator guard block at the hold but the chirping sparrows won’t let the bluebirds alone. They go in the box and hassle them. My neighbors have two boxes of sparrows and they just multiply and torment our songbirds. Could I trap the sparrows and how do I do that? They are downright nasty.
    Thanks. I actually put up a box the sparrows could use to keep them busy,but after building their nest, they still go in the bluebird box . they persist on bothering all of the songbirds.

    • E K Bellinger says

      Re: neighbors with sparrows: I presume you mean Eurasian Tree Sparrows (Black throated)? Those are exotic species, and not covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as far as I know. Any native sparrow is protected. Give Eurasian sparrows an inch, they’ll take a whole block. Sparrows killed the baby wrens that nested in the bird box we have in our garden. Sparrows love millet, so I don’t put any in my feeders. Are your neighbors open to helping you out here? I presume they don’t want to turn their nesting sparrows out; but after the current batch fledges, the neighbors may be willing to put a sparrow baffle on each of their nest boxes, and hope for wrens and chickadees next time. As for trapping, you’d have to ask your local Audubon Society how to do that, and what the laws are in your community.

      • Gloria Harris says

        We have the same problem with sparrows, they have taken over our blue bird houses. Our blue birds have not returned.

  2. Joy Stout says

    Are the predator guards easy to make for the bluebird houses? Where would I go to find the guards to buy?

  3. Don Daily says

    Here in central Indiana I make all of my Wren houses with a 7/8 in. entrance hole. It is just right for the Wrens and too small for the sparrows. I have watched the sparrows try for several minutes before giving up .Only Wrens are able to enter. I also have made a sparrow trap for use near my Bluebird houses but it is too elaborate to describe here.

  4. Julie Dupuis says

    I had 6 bluebirds arrive in late Feb. I put out mealy worms everyday. One pair has decided to stay. I built a house to bluebird from one of your older mags. I put it out [Mar.28] and the next day the male checked it out. He has been guarding it ever since, even in the pouring rain. The wrens and purple finches, chickadees all got chased away. I wonder if the female has approved! I have not seen either one gathering nesting materials yet. I can’t wait….

  5. says

    We live across the dirt road in the woods from a lake. In our fruit orchard we errected a purple martain multi family martin house, on a tall pole. It has been there for 10 years. We’ve never had a martin in it. Do you know, why. We also have a seasonal stream at the orchard edge. The box is white and metal. Thanks for anything you could offer.

  6. Janice Budd Fentress says

    I recently put out a Bluebird box (after I noticed 2 hanging around). The male has checked the box a couple times, and appears interested. The female has only peeked in once. I’ve put some meal worms out but they haven’t seem interested. I also put out some nesting material (feathers, cotton and Spanish moss) around the yard in areas hoping to encourage them to build a nest. This is my first experience with Eastern Bluebirds, so I’m hoping they’ll stay.
    I also have a pair of House Finches making a nest in one of my hanging pots (it’s fake greenery, silly bird)
    I have a pair of Barn Swallows that have returned for a second year after spending last spring and summer on the ledge of our back porch. I learned a lot watching them build a nest and raise the hatchlings. So, I’m excited that they have returned.

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