Renovating and repositioning nestboxes
You only have to walk around any urban, suburban or village street to see nestboxes in people's gardens that are not in a fit state to be used by birds: many have become dilapidated simply because they are old; some may have been damaged by squirrels, larger birds or other animals. Very often you see a nestbox that has clearly been positioned inappropriately and left there for years - despite never being usedVery often you see a nestbox that has clearly been positioned inappropriately and left there for years - despite never being used. If this applies to a nestbox in your own garden, don't despair - take a fresh look at it - there's no need to give in or accept defeat. With a little effort and some careful thinking about correct positioning, it may still be home to a family of birds.
Last year I was given a number of nestboxes in various states of disrepair by a friend who no longer felt able to look after them. A couple of them had fallen victim to marauding grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) and the elements had also taken their toll. I decided that they had definitely not reached the ends of their useful lives, and I took a few simple steps the re-commission them for my own garden.
Of course it's not possible to give definitive guidance for a project like this since what you need to do will depend on what you start out with. However I hope that by showing this example, others may be encouraged to revisit old or unsuccessful nestboxes, renovate and/or move them and give them a second chance.
You would be amazed at the number of different structures and styles of nestboxes that are successfully used by birds. You can spend a pretty penny on a top-of-the-range nestbox only to find that the blue tits prefer your letter box! Arguably far more important than the design details of a nestbox is where you choose to put itArguably far more important than the design details of a nestbox is where you choose to put it.
Inappropriate positioning is the single biggest reason why some nestboxes - even very well designed and constructed ones - remain unused by birds. Positioning a nestbox is part science, part art and part pragmatism; therefore it is quite a tricky business. Placing nestboxes successfully becomes much easier with practice; however there are some rules of thumb which we can use to help us.
This box is positioned well up on a wall - out of the reach of most predators. Note also how the box tilts slightly away from the wall to aid drainage.
- Position nestboxes out of reach of cats.
- Do not place nestboxes adjacent to any sort of platform or perch that will help other birds or animals to harass or attack the nest.
- The nestbox entrances should face away from the prevailing weather and direct sunshine. In exposed situations, entrances which face from anywhere between north to south-east should be okay.
- Do not position nestboxes where they will be subject to regular disturbance, e.g. from people.
- Do not position bird feeders too close to nestboxes (and visa versa) since nesting birds will tend to be distracted by chasing other birds away from the food.
- When hanging a nestbox, it is a good idea to make sure it tilts forward slightly: this encourages rain water to drain away from the entrance of the box.
Even when you have taken care to site your nestbox as carefully as possible, there will be occasions when, for no clear reason, a box is not usedthere will be occasions when, for no clear reason, a box is not used. You should always be patient: if you are pretty confident that you have positioned the box well, then give a box three or four years. Even if it is not used by nesting birds in that time, it will almost certainly be used by them on occasion for roosting and perhaps even by other animals (e.g. hibernating insects)Even if it is not used by nesting birds in that time, it will almost certainly be used by them on occasion for roosting and perhaps even by other animals (e.g. hibernating insects). If after this kind of timeframe a box still shows no signs of being used for nesting, you might want to try a new position. Different species of birds can have quite different requirements when it comes to the position of a nestbox: The BTO Nestbox Guide gives guidance on on a species by species basis and anyone using nestboxes will find this an invaluable aid.
|First published April 2004.|
Copyright Richard Burkmar 2004. Permission is hereby granted for anyone to use this article for non-commercial purposes which are of benefit to the natural environment as long the original author is credited. School pupils, students, teachers and educators are invited to use the article freely. Use for commercial purposes is prohibited unless permission is obtained from the copyright holder.|
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