Building Bird Houses For Cavity Nesters

When building bird houses it's important to know what types of birds you'll be building the house for. One size does not fit all when it comes to building bird houses. Bluebirds and House Wrens have different entrance hole sizes and height requirements. (Size Chart Below.)

While it's possible to get birds to nest in any bird house you build, you'll have greater success attracting the birds you want by building nest boxes to the proper size, and using the correct materials and dimensions.

There are more than 50 different North American birds that will use man-made bird houses. With so much competition from House Sparrows and Starlings, it's important that we help by building properly constructed bird houses where we can.

Some of the types of birds that use bird houses are: Bluebirds, Wrens, Chickadees and Tree Swallows.

Building a bird house can be a wonderful way to spend time with children. It can be a fun way for a child to learn about nature and stay entertained at the same time.

The chart below will be useful to more experience woodworkers in building bird houses for some of the more common types of birds.

birdhouse hole guard
Entance Hole Protector
After you build your birdhouses make sure you don't let the squirrels and woodpeckers damage all your hard work. A metal portal protector will stop this damage before it starts.

Place these around the openings so that they stay the size you want. Available in 1 1/2 inch - 1 1/4 - 1 1/8 inch and 1 9/16 to cover most species of birds. Just click the photo to learn more.


Building Bird Houses

BIRD
SPECIES
FLOOR SIZE BOX HEIGHTENTRANCE
ABOVE FLOOR
ENTRANCE HOLEHEIGHT
ABOVE
GROUND
American Robin*7" x 8"8"--------6-15'
Barn Owls10" x 18"15-18"4"6"12-18'
Bluebirds5" x 5"8-12"6-10"1 1/2 to 1 9/16"4-6'
Chickadees4" x 4"8-10"6-8"1 1/8"4-15'
Common & Northern Flicker7" x 7"16-18"14-16"2 1/2"6-20'
Flycatchers6" x 6"8-12"6-10"1 1/2 to 1 /4"5-15'
House Finch6" x 6"6"4"2"8-12'
House Sparrows4" x 4" to 5" x 5"9-12"6-7"1 3/16 - 2" --
Nuthatches4" x 4"8-10"6-8"1 1/4 to 1 3/8"5-15'
Osprey48" x 48" Platform----------------
Phoebes6" x 6"6"--------8-12'
Purple Martins7" x 11"6"1-2"1 3/4" - 2 1/4"10-15'
Downy Woodpecker4" x 4"8-10"6-8"1 1/4"5-15'
Hairy Woodpecker6" x 6"12-15"9-12"1 1/2"8-20'
Pileated Woodpecker8" x 8"16-24"12-20"3x4"15-25'
Red-Bellied Woodpecker6" x 6"12-15"9-12"2 1/2"10-20'
Red-Headed Woodpecker6" x 6"12-15"9-12"2"10-20'
Red-Tailed Hawk and Great Horned Owl24" x 24" Platform----------------
Screech Owls and Kestrels8" x 8"12-15"9-12"3"10-30'
Barn Swallows*6" x 6"6"--------8-12'
Violet-Green and TreeSwallows5" x 5"6-8"4-6"1 1/2"5-15'
Titmice4" x 4"10-12"6-10"1 1/4"5-15'
Prothonotary Warbler5" x 5"6"4-5"1 1/8"4-8'
Wood Ducks10" x 18"10-24"12-16"4"10-20'
Wrens4" x 4"6-8"4-6"1 to 1 1/2"5-10"
Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker5" x 5"12-15"9-12"1 1/2"10-20'
*Robins prefer a nesting shelf. See one here.

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Some things to keep in mind when building bird houses are: Choose the right material, birds in the wild nest in old trees, fence post, or utility poles. Wood is the preferred material for building nesting boxes.

Ideally, a naturally decay-resistant wood such as cedar, redwood or a good grade of exterior plywood is best for building bird houses.

Wood should be 3/4" thick anything less will allow heat to build up which is detrimental to young birds.

Avoid using paint especially dark paint, (absorbs heat) natural looking houses will be more attrative to birds.

Make sure that you provide proper drainage so as to keep the nest and its contents dry. You can do this with an ample overhang on the roof and 1/4" drain holes bored in each corner of the floor.

Ventilation can be provided by drilling 1/2" vent holes at the top of each side or with a ventilation gap between the roof and sides.

The hole dimension probably is the most critical when building bird houses. If it's too small, your chosen bird species may not be able to enter the house. If it's too large, it could allow bigger, more aggressive species such as starlings or sparrows to use the houses.

Predator guards are another necessary feature. These can be as simple as an additional piece of wood at the entry hole to add more "depth" to the face of the box.

This makes it more difficult for a predator to reach into the nest. You also can drill the entry hole at an angle to deflect a predator's reach up and away from the nest.

Never add a perch when building bird houses. Birds don't need it, but it could be an advantage to predators.

Once the young are ready to fledge, building an easy exit is necessary. This can be done in several ways. You can place the rough side of the wood to the inside of the house, you can score the inside of the box or you can add a piece of small gauge screen or small pieces of wood to act as a ladder for the young birds.

You also must provide easy access for clean out. You can do this simply by hinging the front panel or one of the side panels or by having a removable floor or roof.

Building bird houses is a hobby that can be fun and rewarding. Consider giving bird houses as gifts to friends and family. Even if they are not now a birdwatcher, they might become one once they see a family of birds nesting in the house that you built.

In addition to building bird houses consider building or puchasing a nesting shelf. Some birds, such as the American Robin, Eastern Phoebe, Barn swallows, and Mourning Doves can be attracted to nest on these. No matter what type of birdhouse you decide to build, a Birdhouse Video Camera will make it even more enjoyable. Give it a try, you might be surprised.

See Also:

What You Need to Know When Building Bluebird Houses

Before Buying or Building A Wren House

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