Nestbox Q&A

How high should my nestbox be?

The ideal height for a small-hole type nestbox is between 1m and 5m above the ground with a clear flight path. Care must be given to make sure the box isn’t easily accessible to predators.

Can I put my nestbox on the side of my house?

Yes, a nestbox with a 32mm entrance hole fixed on the wall of a house could well be used by House Sparrows. For Starlings try a box with a 45mm entrance hole.

How big should the nestbox hole be?

For Blue Tit - 25mm

For Great Tit - 28mm

For Tree Sparrow - 28mm

For House Sparrow - 32mm

Can I look inside my nestbox?

Yes, provided you approach quietly and carefully, it is perfectly safe to look into a nestbox from time to time to see how things are progressing once the birds have completed their clutch and are incubating their eggs. Most birds will sit very tight on their nest if you just peek in, though an early morning visit may find the bird off her nest in search of a quick meal before nest duties call her back. 

Should I clean out the nestbox?

When the breeding season is over, old nests can be removed and the box cleaned out. Bird protection law permits the cleaning out of nests between 1 September and 31 January. Any dead eggs must be destroyed promptly and cannot be kept or sold.

Some hole-nesting species, including sparrows, may have second or third broods in the same nest. The nests of these species should be left until sometime during the autumn when it is certain that they are no longer in use.

When cleaning out nestboxes it is advisable to wear surgical gloves and a dust mask. Old nests may harbour fungi growing on damp nest material, which can cause respiratory diseases. Nests can also house a variety of parasites such as fleas, lice and ticks. It is best, therefore, when removing the old nest to put this straight into a plastic bag and seal it before disposal.

My nestbox has never been used...

You can increase the probability of a box being used by choosing a suitable location. However, there are lots of factors that could be stopping birds using your nestbox such as the presence of natural nesting areas nearby. Be patient though: it can take two or three years for a new nestbox to be occupied. If your box hasn’t been used after three years, think about moving it to a different location.

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National Nestbox Week is an established part of the ornithological calendar. Celebrated from February 14th each year, it puts the spotlight on breeding birds and asks everyone to put up more nestboxes in their local area. National Nestbox Week was first established in 1997 by the BTO and Britain’s leading birdcare specialist Jacobi Jayne & Co.

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Nestboxes come in many shapes to suit different birds.

Click on each box to learn a little more.

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