Having a birdhouse in your backyard is a great way to attract beautiful, feathered friends to your outdoor space. Not only is it rewarding to watch birds claim your birdhouse as their home and raise their young, but certain bird species also help control insect and pest populations in your yard. To get the most enjoyment out of your birdhouse, you’ll want to ensure it’s enticing for native birds in your area. With some simple tips, you can give your basic birdhouse a makeover and turn it into a coveted des res for your local bird population.
Choose the Right Location
One of the most important factors in making your birdhouse attractive to birds is placing it in the proper location. Most birds prefer their house to be positioned 5-10 feet off the ground, safely distanced from bushes and trees where predators may hide. Face the entrance hole toward an open area, not toward trees or buildings. Make sure to situate the birdhouse in a spot that allows easy access for cleaning and maintenance.
It’s also key to place your birdhouse in a quiet area of your yard. Birds will avoid spots with heavy human foot traffic or noise. Find a peaceful place away from walkways, patios, play areas, and windchimes or bird feeders. Installing baffles over the entrance hole can also help block disturbing sounds.
Pick the Right Style
When shopping for a birdhouse, you’ll find there are many different sizes, shapes, colors and styles available. It’s important to choose one that will best suit the particular species you hope to attract. Cavity nesting birds like chickadees, nuthatches, sparrows, bluebirds and wrens all have preferences when it comes to birdhouse dimensions.
Here are some recommendations on birdhouse specifications for common backyard birds:
|Floor of Cavity
|Depth of Cavity
|Entrance Hole Diameter
|4 x 4 inches
|8 – 10 inches
|1 1/8 inches
|4 x 4 inches
|8 – 10 inches
|1 1/4 inches
|4 x 4 inches
|8 – 10 inches
|1 1/2 inches
|Eastern & Mountain Bluebirds
|5 x 5 inches
|8 – 12 inches
|1 1/2 inches
|6 x 6 inches
|12 – 15 inches
|2 1/8 – 2 1/4 inches
Placement of the entrance hole is also important. For chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and wrens, opt for an entry near the top of the front panel. Bluebirds and tree swallows prefer their entry halfway between the floor and roof. Purple martins like their door right at the bottom edge of the front facing wall.
Use the Right Materials
Birdhouses can be constructed from many materials, but those made of natural untreated wood generally are the most appealing to wild birds. Cedar and pine work well as they stand up to weather and have some natural insect and rot resistance. Stay away from pressure-treated lumber, which may contain chemicals toxic to birds.
The roof is one area where you can get creative with materials. Try using bark or pinecones to give your birdhouse a woodsy natural aesthetic. For a shingled effect, overlap treated asphalt or composite shingles. Or go for a metal roof like copper or terracotta tiles for an upscale look.
Some additional elements can improve the form and function of your birdhouse:
- Add drainage holes to the floor to allow rain and moisture to escape.
- Ventilate under the roof with gaps or screens to provide air circulation.
- Include a side opening for easy annual clean-outs and monitoring.
- Use a predator guard or baffle over the entrance hole for added security.
Paint or Stain for Protection
While not strictly necessary, applying some type of finish to your wooden birdhouse will help it endure outdoor exposure. Stain, milk paint or outdoor acrylic paint can provide protection as well as add visual appeal.
Use exterior grade, non-toxic finishes. Avoid paints or stains with volatile organic compounds, as fumes may be toxic to young birds and developing eggs. For the interior cavity, opt for a natural stain or water-based sealant without chemical additives.
You can get creative with paint colors and designs outside the birdhouse. Try complementary shades that match your home exterior, or paint motifs inspired by nature. Just know that while a light interior helps the nest stay warm, a darker, natural shade on the exterior will be least disturbing for birds.
Add Decorative Accents
A basic birdhouse can be dressed up with charming decorative accents to catch the eyes of birds and provide visual interest. Here are some easy ways to embellish your bird sanctuary:
- Wrap a vine or wreath around the entrance
- Adorn with moss or succulents in planters
- Attach an ornamental nesting box sign
- Carve or wood-burn designs into the exterior
- Add window boxes overflowing with flowers
- Paint or stencil motifs onto side panels
- Embellish the roof with ceramic birds or nests
- Suspend a twig wreath, windchime or glass bird feeder nearby
The options for customizing and enhancing your birdhouse are endless. Get creative with colors, textures, shapes and motifs to create an ornamental accent that’s picture perfect in your yard.
Offer Birdhouse Accommodations
To appeal to the widest range of bird species, consider installing more than one type of birdhouse in your backyard. Different cavity nesters have preferences for box height, depth, entrance size and interior volume. Providing an assortment of tailored nesting sites will welcome more varieties of birds.
Here are some multi-unit birdhouse options:
- Triple decker birdhouse – With stacked units, offers small, medium and large nesting cavities
- Birdhouse cluster – Group houses of different shapes/sizes mounted close together
- Birdhouse pole – Multiple boxes mounted on apole, tailored to specific species
- Birdhouse shed – Mini shed structure with built-in nesting nooks
Position the different units within sight of each other to provide attractive housing opportunities for more birds with less competition.
Provide Proper Maintenance
The best looking birdhouse will go unused if not properly maintained. You’ll need to do some simple annual upkeep to ensure your bird sanctuary remains clean, pest-free and inviting.
Here are some key maintenance tips:
- Monitor boxes weekly during nesting season. Clean out old nests after young have fledged.
- Remove any abandoned or unviable eggs or nestlings to deter predators.
- Use a weak bleach solution to scrub out soiled interior cavities after each brood.
- Check for leaks, cracks or damage. Make any needed repairs.
- Apply fresh protective stain or paint every 2-3 years.
- Clean entrance holes of obstructions, fecal matter and parasites.
- Sprinkle diatomaceous earth or install insecticidal bags to deter nest mites.
With routine cleaning and upkeep, your bird sanctuary will remain a beloved home for generations of wild birds to raise their young.
Making your backyard birdhouse attractive to native birds takes a combination of strategic placement, ideal design, protective finishes and decorative details. By following the tips above, you can create a coveted home that welcomes charming feathered lodgers season after season. Just be sure to provide proper maintenance and accommodation options to keep a variety of cavity nesting birds returning to your avian abode.
With a well-situated and thoroughly bird-friendly birdhouse, you’ll soon enjoy the sights and sounds of happy hatchlings chirping under your eaves. So go ahead, give your bird real estate the makeover it deserves to be the dream des res of your yard!