It's that time again: National Nest Box week!

All this week, the British Trust for Ornithology is holding its annual National Nest Box Week, and encouraging everyone to put up nest boxes in their gardens and local areas, and enhance biodiversity and conservation of our breeding birds and wildlife. Why not get involved?

We first blogged about National Nest Box week in 2017, and since then we hope we have played our part in helping our beautiful feathered friends across the country. We were so pleased when one of our customers sent us some photos of a great tit using one of our New England Nest Boxes – we’re not sure who’s more delighted; they or us!

Great tit in nest box

A bit about nest boxes

Naturally, many birds make their nests in holes in walls or trees, but some more inquisitive species will make their nests just about anywhere. Cheeky blue tits are well known for nesting in unusual places, such as letterboxes and old pipes. Females make their nests from a variety of materials, including moss, wool, dead leaves, and spiders’ silk, and they line their cup-shaped nests with down to make a comfy home for their chicks.

Some areas provide more homes for birds than others. For example, most established woodland areas will have lots of old trees with holes and crevices for birds to nest in. However, newly planted areas with young trees, or city suburbs, may provide lots of food, but not much choice for nesting. That is where you come in! You can mimic the birds’ natural nesting spots by putting up a nest box instead.

Nest boxes have an astonishingly long history

There is evidence to suggest that clay flasks were used as long ago as the medieval times. In the 19th century, Charles Waterton was probably the first to use nest boxes simply to encourage birds for pleasure and observation, and shortly afterwards scientists began using nest boxes for study. As our understanding of different birds has advanced, modern nest boxes evolved, and a whole variety developed, using a range of materials and tailored for a variety of different birds.

Why put up a nest box?

More than 60 species of British birds are known to use nest boxes, including blue, great and coal tits, nuthatches, house and tree sparrows, spotted and pied flycatchers, and even tawny owls. So, depending on the box you choose and where you put it, you could soon see all manner of beautiful birds paying you a visit.

Sadly, many species of bird have declined in Britain over recent years, primarily due to loss of habitats. If you are careful, you may wish to provide homes for those birds that really need your help, such as house sparrows and starlings, and play your bit in bringing these British favourites back to your area.

How and where!

Firmly attach your nest box to a tree or wall at least 1.5 metres from the ground, facing away from the heat of the sun, and avoiding the direction of the prevailing wind and rain (nobody likes a wet and windy house, and birds are just the same). In Britain, the prevailing winds come from the south to north-west. If you have cats, or your neighbours do, make sure they can’t get in!

What’s next?

Once you have put up a nest box, you can encourage birds to use it by putting out some nesting material in your garden. Different birds will use different materials to construct their nests, so by putting out a variety you will be helping different species of birds. Commonly used materials include twigs and sticks, grass clippings, yarn, wool and cotton, pet grooming hair and feathers.

Never use plastic or fishing twine, as these can be harmful to the birds. Be wary about putting out any materials that may have been treated with pesticides or fertilisers or medicines, and make sure to cut any yarn or string into short lengths (shorter than 3 inches, so the birds cannot get tangled up).

Happy nesting!

If you’re feeling inspired, why not check out the lovely bird boxes and bird feeders we have on our website. We’d love to see more pictures of your nest boxes and their feathered occupants – keep them coming! Why not post them on our Facebook or Twitter page?

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  • Alice Kirk