bird houses

If you have a broadband connection, for inspiration see some webcamera views inside birdhouses, www.birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse/nestboxcam/

Bird houses for North American cavity-nesting birds

Before making a birdhouse, choose a species and review the “bird bios” information provided by Cornell. (www.birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse/bios/) The bios give species-specific habitat and nesting requirements that cannot be provided in a simple table like this (such as that boxes for flickers should be stuffed full of sawdust).

The inside should not be painted, because fledglings can't crawl from the nest to the entrance hole if the surface is too smooth. Some builders saw horizontal cuts on the inside surface of the panel that has the entrance hole.

Do not provide a dowel for perching. They are helpful to predators.

The figure given in the table for the height of the entrance hole is the distance in inches from the bottom of the hole to the bottom of the cavity.

The links in the species column are mostly to plans provided by the Ornithology Lab at Cornell.

Species Cavity
(dimensions in inches)
Entrance hole Height above
ground in feet
Spacing
Floor Depth Height Dia.
Black-capped chickadee 4 by 4 6–8 4–6 6–10  
Tufted titmouse 4 by 4 8–10 6–8 1¹⁄₈ 6–15  
Eastern bluebird 5 by 5 8–10 6 5–10  
House finch 6 by 6 8–10 4 2 8–12  
Owls
Screech 8 by 8 12–15 9–12 3 10–30  
Saw-whet 6 by 6 10–12 9–10 12–20  
Barn 10 by 18 15–18 4 6 12–18  
Nuthatches
White-breasted 4 by 4 8–10 6–8 5–20  
Brown-headed 2 by 3 8–10 6–8 1 5–20  
Swallows
Violet-green swallow 5 by 5 4–6 4–6 10–15  
Tree swallow 5 by 5 6–8 4–6 10–15  
Purple martin 6 by 6 6 1   15–20 0
Woodpeckers
Downy 4 by 4 8–10 6–8 6–20  
Hairy 6 by 6 12–15 9–12 12–20  
Northern flicker 7 by 7 16–18 14–16 6–20  
Red-headed 6 by 6 12–15 9–12 2 12–20  
Wrens
House 4 by 4 6–8 4–6 6–10  

Chimney swifts (Chaetura pelagica) are a special case as they enter the nesting cavity through the top. A birdhouse for chimney swifts is a hollow tower. For guidance on constructing one, see chimneyswifts.org.

Nesting sites for North American platform-nesting birds

The following species nest on platforms, not in enclosed cavities. A predator shield should be placed around the trunk of the tree or pole supporting a platform nest.

Species Platform
in inches
Height
above ground
in feet
Spacing
Robin 6 by 8 6–15  
Barn Swallow 6 by 6 10–15  
Black or Eastern Phoebe 6 by 6 8  
Osprey 3 feet by 3 feet to
 4 feet by 4 feet with
 2 inch by 6 inch edging
15–20. There must be no trees higher than the ospreys’ platform
 in the area around their nest.
To accomplish this, either clear trees or raise the platform.
½ mile

On the Web

If you erect birdhouses, please consider joining the Birdhouse Network at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse/

for further reading

René and Christyna M. Laubach.
The Backyard Birdhouse Book; Building Nestboxes and Creating Natural Habitats.
Storey Books, 1999.

Scott Shalaway.
Building a Backyard Bird Habitat.
Stackpole, 2000.

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