Adding a bird box or two to your garden can help provide homes for a number of garden birds, from blue tits and great tits to house sparrows, robins and – if you're lucky – woodpeckers and spotted flycatchers.

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A bird box can complete your garden habitat, bringing more birds into your garden. More birds means more natural pest control – birds eat a range of garden 'pests' including aphids and caterpillars. Having more birds in the garden makes your garden a richer habitat and more interesting to boot. Who wouldn't want to look out of the window and see a family of birds dotted around the border?

Bird boxes are an important addition to gardens as they mimic natural nest sites we tend not to have in our gardens. In the wild, tits and other birds nest in tree holes. But these are in short supply in our gardens. Adding a bird box or two can therefore help increase local bird populations. This is especially important for declining species such as house sparrows and starlings.

Which type of bird box should I buy?

As you might expect, different birds have different nesting requirements, and therefore need different nest box designs. Tits and house sparrows nest in 'closed' or 'holed' boxes, with an entrance hole at the top. The size of the hole differs among the species: tit boxes typically have a 28mm hole while house sparrows need something a bit bigger – 32mm is ideal. Bear in mind that house sparrows nest in loose family groups, so it's a good idea to erect several bird boxes together or you can buy a 'sparrow terrace', which has three nest boxes in one. Robins and wrens nest in 'open fronted' bird boxes, where the top half of the box is open and accessible.

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Bird boxes can be made from wood or woodcrete – a mix of sawdust, clay and concrete – which lasts longer than wood and offers more protection against predators such as woodpeckers. Avoid buying bird boxes made using different materials.

Before you buy or make your nest box, think about which species already visit your garden, and which you're more likely to attract. Start with the species you know are already using your garden. If you live in an urban area you're unlikely to attract woodpeckers and spotted flycatchers, but you'll probably have success with tits.

We've put together a list of boxes to add to your garden, based on the species that use them. Find out more, below.

More on attracting garden birds:


Tit box

Types of bird box - tit box
Types of bird box - tit box

A tit box is a great catch-all design for blue, great and marsh tits, plus house sparrows and even nuthatches. If making it yourself, ensure the hole diameter is 28mm (house sparrows need a slightly larger hole).However, smaller birds may use boxes with larger holes, so if in doubt go for a 32mm hole.

When buying a tit box, make sure the sides are flush and there are no draughty gaps between the pieces of wood. Ensure the hole sits quite high up in the box, so cats can't reach inside to grab the chicks.

Position your tit box in a north or easterly direction, 1-2m high with no foliage blocking the entrance hole, so the birds have a clear view of predators from the box.


Nest box for robins and wrens

Types of bird box - open-fronted box
Types of bird box - open-fronted box

Open-fronted nest boxes are most suited to robins, wrens and flycatchers. The design of the box puts the birds and their chicks at high risk of predation so be careful where you site it. Most commercially available open-fronted boxes have a 100mm front panel, but if you want to attract wrens you're best buying or making one with a 140mm panel.

Position your open-fronted nest box low down (less than 2m high), hidden in vegetation.


House sparrow terrace

Types of bird box - woman erecting house sparrow terrace on house
Types of bird box - woman erecting house sparrow terrace on house

A house sparrow terrace comprises three boxes in one, as house sparrows seem to like nesting in loose colonies. Whether you're buying or making your box, ensure the holes have a diameter of 32mm.

Position your sparrow terrace at least 2m off the ground, ideally under the eaves of your house, as long as house martins aren't nesting nearby. (If house martins are nesting nearby then position the sparrow terrace far away from the house martin nests, as conflict is common between the two species.)


Swallow and house martin nest boxes

Types of bird box - house martin nest box
Types of bird box - house martin nest box

If you have a barn or an outbuilding such as a garage, you may be able to attract swallows to nest, while house martins will readily nest under the eaves of houses where there's suitable foraging habitat nearby. Both species typically build their own nests but swallows will use an artificial nest box if there's one available. House martins are less likely to use artificial boxes but will be more attracted to an area if there's an existing nest box there, so it's worth putting one up anyway.

Swallows need a flat area to nest, such as a wooden beam or shelf. House Martins normally nest under eaves but will occasionally nest in holes in houses, like swifts.

Position your house martin box beneath the eaves of your house. There is some evidence to suggest house martins prefer a north or east-facing direction, but all aspects are used.


Swift box

Types of bird box - swift box
Types of bird box - swift box

Swifts typically nest in holes in old buildings, including the gaps between the roof and the eaves. Sadly, our homes are increasingly cut off to them as new homes are better insulated and older homes are refurbished.

It's easy to erect swift boxes on your home, into the soffits of your home or even in the cavity walls. Swifts need space at least 300mm wide x 200mm deep x 150mm high.

Position your swift box at least 5m off the ground, in a north or westerly direction. The site should be clear and have no foliage blocking the entrance hole. Playing swift calls can alert swifts to your nest boxes and encourage them to investigate.

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