Many different birds readily nest in bird houses, but not every house is suitable for every bird. By understanding which houses best appeal to specific types of birds, you can more easily encourage specific birds to take up residence and raise their feathered families.
What Cavity-Nesting Birds Can You Attract?
It will be easier to attract birds to a bird house if you know which birds are already in your neighborhood during the nesting season. Watch your feeders carefully, noting which species you see most often. Check birds’ range maps in your favorite field guide to verify that they nest in your region. Or, consult with a local birding group about the most common nesting birds in your area.
Once you know which birds are most likely nesting nearby, make your yard friendlier for those species by offering their favorite foods at feeding stations. You can also plant flowers, trees, and shrubs that best suit their needs. Offering a clean bird bath is another way to attract birds. You can also offer safe nesting material such as grass clippings, twigs, pine needles, and natural cotton fluff. Once the birds become aware of your yard as a safe sanctuary, they will be more willing to check out bird houses in the vicinity.
Best Bird Houses for Specific Birds
You can attract certain nesting birds by choosing houses that suit their needs best. This includes opting for bird houses of the right style and design, as well as ensuring suitable house dimensions. A properly-sized entrance hole is especially critical to allow birds safe access without admitting larger, less desirable species.
The best bird house options for some of the most desirable birds include:
Bluebirds: These colorful, charismatic birds are always a top choice for birders to attract. They readily nest in wooden houses with vertical rectangle shapes. The interior floor should be 5×5 inches, and the entrance should be 1.5 inches in diameter. Mount the house to a pole, tree, or wall 3-6 feet above the ground to attract bluebirds the best.
See also: How to Attract Bluebirds
Wrens and Chickadees: These small, energetic birds will both use houses with floors measuring 4×4 inches and entrance holes 1.25 inches across. Wrens and chickadees favor angular or diamond-shaped houses. Mount the houses 5-12 feet above the ground.
Downy Woodpeckers: Tiny and widespread, Downy woodpeckers easily nest in houses offering 4×4 inches of floor space and 1.25-inch entrances. Mount houses for Downy woodpeckers to tree trunks at heights ranging from 15-20 feet, preferably in shaded areas that are quiet but still close to prime feeding locations.
Red-Bellied Woodpeckers: These common, feisty woodpeckers enjoy larger houses with floor space measuring 7×9 inches, and an entrance that is roughly 2.5 inches in diameter. They prefer wooden houses, and you should firmly mount them on tree trunks at least 10-20 feet above the ground.
See also: How to Attract Woodpeckers
Purple Martins: These large, colorful swallows are colonial nesters that thrive best in large, apartment-style houses or groups of nesting gourds. The floor space should measure 6×6 inches and the entrance hole—which can be round or a horizontal half-moon shape—should be 2.5 inches across. The houses should be hung 10-15 feet high in a broad, open area.
Nuthatches: Similar to wrens and chickadees, nuthatches also prefer houses with floors measuring 4×4 inches and 1.25-inch entrance hole diameters. These birds will nest in houses of different shapes. The houses should be hung in trees or attached to sturdy trunks roughly 5-15 feet above the ground.
See also: How to Attract Nuthatches
Pileated Woodpeckers: These large woodpeckers need large, sturdy wooden homes with interior floors measuring 8×8 inches and entrances 3-4 inches across. The overall interior height of the house should be 24 inches, with the structure mounted in a sturdy tree at least 15-25 feet above the ground.
American Kestrels: The smallest North American falcon, American kestrels will nest in houses with 8×8-inch floor measurements and 3-inch entrance holes. Ideally, these houses should be mounted on posts, poles, walls, or tall trees at least 10-30 feet above the ground. Face them toward open spaces to give the birds the best hunting views.
Screech-Owls: Both eastern and western screech-owls will nest in houses with floor space of 8×8 inches and entrances 3 inches across. Mount the houses in quieter, more secluded areas to help these nocturnal birds feel comfortable. Sturdily attach them to trees at least 15-30 feet above the ground.
See also: How to Attract Owls
Wood Ducks: If there are wood ducks in your neighborhood, you can provide appropriate housing with a duck box. These bird houses should measure 10×10 or 10×18 inches on the floor, with a 4-inch entrance hole. The house should face a pond and be 6-30 feet above the ground. Place lower houses closer to ponds and higher houses further away in trees.
Don’t Forget Nesting Platforms
Many favorite backyard birds don’t nest in fully-enclosed houses, but they will use nesting shelves and platforms. Birds that use nest platforms include:
American Robins: These popular thrushes prefer larger nesting shelves with 8×8-inch floors and fully open sides. Position the shelf to face nearby foliage and mount it 7-15 feet high.
Blue Jays: These colorful corvids will nest on shelves that have 8×8-inch floors and sloping roofs providing some shelter. You can also place open shelves under eaves for nesting blue jays.
Mourning Doves: Gentle and peaceful, mourning doves will use nesting shelves with 8×8-inch floors and open sides. Position shelves 7-14 feet high and facing open space.
Barn Swallows: These acrobatic swallows prefer nesting shelves that measure 4×4 inches on the floor, with narrow or open sides. Mount barn swallow shelves under porch or roof eaves.
Brown Thrashers: These songsters will use larger, open shelves that measure 7×9 inches on the floor. The shelves must be positioned just 1-3 feet above the ground in a brushy area.
Gray Catbirds: Another ground-nester, gray catbirds will use 6×8-inch nesting shelves at 3-10 feet above the ground. The roof’s corner posts should be about 8 inches high.
Many birds are flexible in their housing requirements. Even if you choose the perfect house for one bird species, don’t be surprised to find other species checking out the accommodations. The more bird-friendly your yard is, the more likely you will have multiple bird families take up residence in your bird houses.