Choosing the right birdhouse

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A birdhouse with these features will last for years and years

As late-winter and spring approach, it’s time to think of birdhouses. If you’re in the South, February is a good time to hang birdhouses; in the North, hang them in mid-March. One of the great pleasures of a backyard wildlife habitat is watching birds that are living there– especially those using a birdhouse, where they can be seen coming and going. Some of our favorite backyard birds use them, including bluebirds, wrens, chickadees, screech owls and tree swallows, depending on your yard’s habitat.

If you want to draw a particular bird to a birdhouse, you’ll need to shop (or build it) purposefully. If we go house-shopping for ourselves, don’t we have something specific in mind? If we’re looking for a townhouse, it’s unlikely we’ll settle for a studio apartment! It happens that birds have preferences, too. When “shopping around” they’ll consider dimensions, features, color, hanging height and location. It’s easy to meet their requirements when you know what to do.

The first thing to consider is the bird(s) you want to attract.

It’s important to shop for or build the best quality that fits in your budget. Materials and workmanship of poor quality won’t last long outdoors and may also be unhealthy for the birds. Below are links to more pages you’ll find useful and a list of the construction features to look for.

Birds and the birdhouse dimensions they require
Where to hang birdhouses 

• Thick wood for insulation.
• Cedar and redwood will last for years and can go unpainted. Pine and plywood won’t last as long, so extend their life by painting the exterior with a water-based paint.
• Untreated wood for health of the birds.
• A sloped roof for good rainwater runoff.
• A roof that extends out 2 inches or more above the entrance hole to keep  out rain.
• A movable panel for easy-cleaning.
• Ventilation holes on two sides for cross ventilation.
• Drainage holes in the bottom, in case rain finds its way inside.
• A rough interior to help fledglings climb out when it’s time to leave the nest.
• No perch — birds don’t need it and predators take advantage of it.
• Built with screws and nails, not with staples, so it will last for years.
• Easy to hang firmly, so wind won’t blow it around, making eggs roll (although, some birds don’t mind the wind).
• Earth tones are the best colors — bright paint can attract predators.
• No paint on the inside — flaking paint can be toxic.

*Top photo: House Sparrow family. (© Carolyn Russell)

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