I’m thinking of building a birdhouse. What can I do to make sure birds will use it?
Birdhouses are one of those things that seem simple on the surface but are pretty complicated. Or rather, the factors that determine whether or not birds will use a birdhouse vary considerably.
The first thing to remember is that not all birds use birdhouses. A birdhouse is specifically meant to attract cavity-nesters birds, which are species that naturally seek out or dig out cavities in trees and other natural areas to build their nests. A classic example of this is woodpeckers, who are primary cavity nesters. This means they’ll not only make nests in cavities, but they are also capable of digging out their cavities. As you may have guessed, secondary cavity nesters can’t dig holes and use existing pits that either happened naturally or were dug out by other birds.
All of that means that if your region of the world doesn’t have a lot of cavity nesters, you won’t see much traffic around your birdhouse.
Another thing to keep in mind is amenities. Most birds prefer to have their nests near sources of food and water. So, if you are setting up your birdhouse in your yard or garden, consider pairing it with a bird feeder and a birdbath. If you want to set the birdhouse out in the woods, you’ll need to be strategic about the placement.
Of course, the design and construction of the birdhouse are also crucial. It has to be big enough for the type of nesting birds that are common in your area, it has to be at the right height for that type of bird, it shouldn’t be painted too brightly or attract too much attention, and it should be sturdy enough to keep the bird safe from predators, among other factors.
Most of these aren’t dealbreakers — a bird can put up with many issues if it is short on options — but getting all of this right will significantly increase your chances of getting birds to use the birdhouse. The best way to ensure birds will use your birdhouse is to do your homework and ask locals with experience what they do to attract birds. Or read up online on websites like Love the Birds.