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Why Build Nest Boxes?
There are about 50 bird species in Canada that nest in cavities, including House Wrens, chickadees, several species of woodpeckers and waterfowl, and many more. Some cavity-nesters (e.g., chickadees and woodpeckers) excavate their own nest sites, but most use naturally occurring cavities or those excavated by other species. Many populations of cavity-nesting birds have declined due to shortages of natural nesting sites. Nest boxes provide cavity- nesters with an alternative to natural sites.
Tips for Building Nest Boxes
- Nest boxes should be sturdy, weatherproof, and securely mounted.
- Include drainage and ventilation (e.g., a few small holes in the box floor near the walls, and a few small holes just below the roof).
Tree Swallow nest boxes with predator guards (Photo: David Bradley, Bird Studies Canada)
- Protect nest boxes from predators. Do not place a nest box in a location where a raccoon or squirrel could get to it. For boxes close to the ground, add a predator guard.
- Clean nest boxes every fall. Once the nesting season is over, remove old nest material. This will also help eliminate parasites. Do not use detergent to clean nest boxes.
Additional Nest Box Resources
- The NestWatch Nest Box Resource Centre, by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This site includes several different types of nest box models, box measurements for common species, species fact sheets, predator guard plans, etc.
- Hinterland Who's Who, by Environment Canada. This site shows a few models, along with box measurements and breeding characteristics for common species. The models shown don't allow boxes to be opened (to check contents and for cleaning), therefore we recommend you add a hinge to one of the panels (top, side or front). See the above website to view examples of boxes that can be opened.
Books on nest boxes
- Dion, A. 1986. Construire des cabanes d'oiseaux: des dizaines de modèles faciles à réaliser. Éditions de l'Homme. Montréal, Québec. in French
- Henderson, C. L. 1992. Woodworking for Wildlife: Homes for Birds and Mammals. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. St. Paul, MN.
- Pearman, M. D. 1992. Nestboxes for Prairie Birds. Ellis Bird Farm Ltd. Lacombe, Alberta.
- Shalaway, S. 1995. A Guide to Bird Homes. Nesting & Roosting Space for Your Backyard Birds. Bird Watcher's Digest Press. Pardson Corporation. Marietta, Ohio.
- Stokes, Donald and Lillian. 1995. Birdhouse book: the complete guide to attracting nesting birds. Broquet, LaPrairie.
- Zenner, G. G., T. G. LaGrange and A. W. Hancock. 1992. Nest structures for ducks and geese. Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Des Moines, Iowa.