Attracting Nesting Birds with Better Birdhouses

Originally Written by George Harrison, Birds and Blooms

One of my favorite activities to do is sit in my backyard and watch all of birds that live in my yard. From the woodpecker in my tree to the family of cardinals, it is always exiting for me to see what types of birds make it into my yard each year. What has always guaranteed this activity is my using bird feeders and houses all throughout my yard (even some squirrel accessories to keep our bushy tailed friends busy).

Part of keeping our feathered friends around us can be through the use of feeders and houses. These allow for birds to be able to find sufficient forms of shelter and food for most of the year. Selecting and setting up a bird house can be a fun activity that will make your yard look amazing well also providing the perfect home for many of our feathered friends. While not all backyard birds, such as cardinals, orioles, and goldfinches, but many common birds do make nests in bird houses. The birds that nest in houses are known as “cavity nesters”. Bluebirds, purple martins, house wrens, chickadees, tree shallows, and house sparrows are all common cavity nesters. Houses may also attract other birds such as wood ducks, screech-owls, woodpeckers, titmice, and nutpatches.

But selecting and/or building a house is not the most important step in setting up a successful birdhouse. There are several other key factors to consider in order to attract nesting birds.

  1. Select a suitable Nesting Location

Different bird species require different habitat requirements. Choosing particular environments will allow certain breeds to begin nesting in our house. This step might require some research to ensure that your house is inhabited by a cavity nester.

  • Bluebirds – Area facing or surrounding open fields which allows close proximity to insects to eat and feed their young
  • Chickadees – Houses in a thicket or stand of small trees and shrubs
  • House Wrens – House hanging from a small tree in a more open yard
  • Purple Martins – Apartment houses placed on a tall pole in the middle of a lawn or open field
  • Tree Swallows – Close to water for proximity to aquatic insects to eat and feed their young

  1. Pick the Proper House Design

Like habitats, different bird species require different types of birdhouses. Depending on the species of bird that is in your area, you might need to do some research to see what type of house that will be best. Here are some examples:

  • Purple Martins – Live in communities with many birds of their species so apartment style houses or multiple nesting gourds
  • House Wrens – Single, small houses with no other wrens nearby
  • Bluebirds – Single—room dwellings, typically 50 to 75 yards apart
  • Martins – Aluminum or dried gourds that are painted white to reflect heat

One important thing to consider when birdhouse shopping is the material that the house is constructed with. Wood material is best for most species of birds. The house also should have ventilation around the top and drainage holes in the floor. The house also should be painted or stained an earth tone.


  1. Use a birdhouse that fits

Your house should fit the species of bird you wish to inhabit it. Small birds need small houses and large birds need large houses. The sizes below can be guidelines in your search. Many manufacturers will state what breads are good for a particular house. For example:

  • House Wrens – 8 in tall with a 4 in by 6 in base
  • Chickadee – 8 in tall by 5 in by 5 in base
  • Bluebirds – 10 in tall by 5.5 in by 5.5 in base
  • Wood Ducks/Screech Owls – 24 in tall by 10 in by 10 in base

  1. Check the Entrance Hole

You will need to make sure that the entrance hole on your house is appropriate to the size bird you wish to attract. The size of the hole can allow for the best access while also keeping other predators from getting access to the house. Here are some guidelines:

  • House Wrens – 1 1/8 inches
  • Wood Ducks/Screech Owls – Elliptical Doorway that is 4x3 inches that is about 20 inches above the floor of the house
  • Chickadees/Titmice/Nuthatches – 1 ¼ inches
  • Bluebirds – 1 ½ inches
  1. Hang it at the right height

Depending on what bird, you will need to hang your house at a particular house in order to attract specific birds.

  • Purple Martins – 15 to 20 feet above ground
  • Wood Ducks/Screech Owls – 12 to 40 feet from ground
  • Bluebirds – 5 5o 8 feet above grounds
  • House Wrens – 6 to 10 feet above ground, hanging from a tree
  • Chickadees – 4 to 8 Feet above the floor of a thicket


Remember! Bird houses can add a fun and delight piece of yard decor to your yard. So do not be afraid to find something that fits your design preferences BUT it is essential to find one that will be appropriate for the birds that you have in your yard!

Happy Gardening Everyone!


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1 comment

James Anderson

James Anderson

It’s great to know that in choosing a birdhouse, one should first know which bird species would they want to attract in their garden, as different species require different types of birdhouses. I want to attract birds in my garden, but I don’t want too many of them staying in the garden so that they will not end up causing too much dirt. Knowing that house wrens fit this description, I will find a garden decor birdhouse that is small and is enough for a single house wren.

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