When you decide to buy one bird house or more -- be aware that there are many designs being sold that are unsuitable for the birds. These houses may not attract any birds or the types of birds you wish, or they may actually be harmful.
Many are very cute and look like little decorated houses. There is nothing wrong with these, but they are usually more appropriate as indoor decoration than as good safe homes for wild birds.
Below is a checklist of the ten most important features of a good working bird house. Before you put a house out for wild birds, be sure it has these ten features. If it is decorative and still has these features, then it is fine to put it out.
The Ten Things:
1. No Perch
Tree holes in the wild have no perches, so the birds that use nest boxes do not need them. They can be a disadvantage in that they may attract House Sparrows, an invasive species that often takes over nests from our native hole-nesting birds.
2. Diameter Of Entrance Hole
Most of our common hole-nesting birds can use an entrance hole 1-1/2 inches in diameter. This size also keeps out Starlings, another invasive species that takes over nest boxes from native species.
3. Inside Flooring Dimensions
The inside dimensions of the box are important and should be at least 4 inches by 4 inches so that there is room for the young to develop.
4. Overall Height Of House
The distance from the bottom of the entrance hole to the floor of the box should be at least 5 inches. This keeps the developing young well down in the box and away from predators that might approach the entrance hole.
5. Easy Access For Cleaning
You must be able to open the box, either on the side, front, or top. This helps in two ways: to monitor the progress and health of the young; and to clean out the box at the end of the season.
There must be holes or slits at the top of the box sides or along the top of the front of the box to let hot air out when the sun beats down on the box in summer.
7. Drain Holes
The bottom of the box needs to have holes or cut off corners to allow any water to drain out of the box.
Check to see if there is some way that you can attach the box to a pole, such as holes or a bracket.
9. Wood Material Of Choice
Be sure that the materials the box is made of are 3/4 inch thick wood or a similar material that will insulate the birds from cold and heat. The only exception to wood is Purple Martin Housing -- many are made out of Metal.
10. Roof Overhang
The roof should overhang the entrance hole by 1 to 2 inches. This both shades the entrance hole and keeps the rain out.
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