Common Backyard Cavity Nesters

You can help a bird nesting in your backyard by providing places for cavity nesters.

This time of year, I always get lots of questions about how people can get birds to nest in their backyards. Most folks are looking for recommendations on what type of nest boxes they should buy and don’t realize that there are a number of things to consider in addition to the box itself.

Placement is one of the first keys to attracting birds. Birds such as wrens don’t mind if the box is hanging, but others like bluebirds and swallows much prefer a box on a post. Another critical aspect of selecting a nest box is the size of the entrance hole. You need to keep the hole small, 1 1/8″ to 1 1/4″ for wrens and chickadees and 1 1/2″ to 1 9/16″ for bluebirds and swallows.

After discussing all of the options for putting nest boxes out to help the cavity nesters that are looking for nesting sites, the next question I get is what species might be attracted to their nest boxes. Here are some of the most common cavity nesting species that might visit your backyard.

1. Chickadees

Where you live in the US will determine what species of chickadee might visit your nest box – Carolina, Black-capped, Mountain or Chestnut-backed.

Common Backyard Cavity NestersRob Ripma
Rob Ripma Black-capped Chickadees are found in the northern parts of the US.
Common Backyard Cavity NestersRob Ripma
Rob Ripma Carolina Chickadees are typically found in the southeastern US and up into portions of the Midwest.
Common Backyard Cavity NestersRob Ripma
Rob Ripma Mountain Chickadees are found in higher elevation areas throughout the western US.
2. Wrens

Wrens will typically go after the same types of nest boxes as chickadees. You can attract Carolina Wrens in the east, Bewick’s Wrens in the west, and House Wrens throughout the country.

Common Backyard Cavity NestersRob Ripma
Rob Ripma Carolina Wrens are a common cavity nester in the eastern US.
Common Backyard Cavity NestersRob Ripma
Rob Ripma Although you won’t find Carolina Wrens out west, you can have nesting Bewick’s Wrens (pictured above) in that part of the country.
Common Backyard Cavity NestersRob Ripma
Stephanie Ripma House Wrens are one of the most common cavity nesters throughout the US.
3.  Bluebirds

More people want to attract bluebirds to nest in their yards than any other species! In the east, you can attract Eastern Bluebirds and out west you can get both Western and Mountain Bluebirds depending on where you are. They do tend to be harder to attract than the wrens and chickadees.

Common Backyard Cavity NestersRob Ripma
Rob Ripma Eastern Bluebirds are one of the most sought after cavity nesters!
4. Swallows

Although many swallow species aren’t cavity nesters, both Tree and Violet-green Swallows will make use of nesting boxes. While Tree Swallows can be found throughout the US, Violet-green Swallows are only found in the western US.

Common Backyard Cavity NestersRob Ripma
Rob Ripma Tree Swallows are likely to use the same box that you put out for bluebirds.

Check out Cornell’s Nest Watch to learn more about a number of our common nesting birds.

Rob Ripma
Rob Ripma, a lifelong Indiana resident, has traveled and birded extensively throughout the Americas.