Everything You Need to Know About Birding

Real Estate for the Birds: Why Nest Box Features are Important

Nov 4, 2019 2:26:35 PM / by Amanda Joest



As colder weather sets in and many birdhouses and nest boxes become vacant, the next few months are a good time to maintain most nest boxes or to mount a new box. Check Cornell's NestWatch site for guidance on the best times to mount your nesting box or birdhouse. 

Before purchasing a new birdhouse, there are a few points to consider. Read on for important features to look for when (bird) house hunting! 


Size Matters

One of the most frequently asked questions I answer is whether the nest boxes JCs Wildlife builds are suitable for other species. The answer is simple: no. Nest boxes, or birdhouses, are made to fit the specific needs of the specific bird. It is true that several species will often share the same or very similar requirements (think Wrens and Chickadees or Screech Owls and Kestrels); however, when you get into species with vastly different needs, offering the same nest box is not appropriate (Barn Owls and Barred Owls or Bluebirds and Robins). 



Birdhouses and nest boxes are homes to your feathered friends, and homes get... used... Drainage holes and drainage spaces help keep excess waste, as well as snow and rainwater out of the nests. Along with drainage, ventilation is one of the most important features of any nest box or birdhouse. Look for gaps between the side walls and roof eaves or taller roofs that allow for better air circulation. 


The Entrance Hole

Just like the doors in your home, the entrance hole on a birdhouse serves to allow tenants in while keeping unwanted visitors out. Again, size and shape matter here as well. A too-large entrance hole on a birdhouse can allow pest species and predators in. You can offer your nest box more protection by installing a predator guard over the entrance hole. Noel Predator Guards are metal mesh "cages" that fit around the entrance hole to keep larger predators, including cats, raccoons, and snakes out of the nest box. 


The Perch

Perches are a personal pet peeve of mine. Aside from the grip grooves on the Barn Owl Nest Box and the slats on the Screech Owl, Saw-Whet and Kestrel nest boxes, perches are generally unnecessary. Many species will fly directly into and out of their houses, and perches tend to offer more assistance to predators than to the birds. That being said, I would be doing a disservice if I did not mention that perches have become a bit of a hot topic recently. Researchers have started monitoring nest boxes and birdhouses of various species to determine how they perform with and without outer perches. 


Nesting Material 

Think of nesting material included with your nest box as a house you just purchased coming completely furnished. Sure, you can find your own dining room table and recliner, but this saves you a lot of time and energy! Do make sure that the nesting material you use in your nest box is appropriate to the species using the box. For instance, cedar shavings would not be appropriate in a Barn Owl Nest Box, as Barn Owls may not rest in it. 


Mounting: Location, Location, Location!

When choosing where to mount your birdhouse or nest box, choose a location that most closely resembles the natural habitat for the species you are wanting to attract. Nest boxes are most successful when they are located in areas you are most likely to find that species. 


Tags: Birding Tips, Bird Watching, Bird Houses

Amanda Joest

Written by Amanda Joest