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Nest Boxes

Artificial nest sites for birds and other animals, not always, strictly speaking, boxes as such, as some are in the shape of tubes or cups. As well as the sheer pleasure of watching their occupants, nest boxes have two more serious uses:

In these ways putting up nest boxes can aid both monitoring and conservation of birds and other forms of wildlife.


The first nest boxes seem to have consisted of clay flasks and were used in medieval times in the Netherlands to house Starlings and House Sparrows, whose young were then eaten. The first ones provided simply to encourage birds for pleasure or observation were perhaps those put up by Charles Waterton in Yorkshire during the early 19th century, by which time most were constructed of wood. Scientific researchers began to make use of nest boxes early in the 20th century, for example in a study of the House Wren in the USA. As the exact needs of the birds became better known, the modern types of boxes evolved, and materials other than wood began to be used, such as cement, hardboard, plastic and more recently woodcrete, developed by the German firm Schwegler GmbH. Another trend during the last few decades has been the extension in the range of birds catered for, from the original nesters in holes and cavities such as tits and Robins to species like House Martins, kestrels and Tawny Owls, and also to animals other than birds, for example bats, hedgehogs and even insects. Nest boxes are now seen in many gardens and nature reserves, the grounds of schools and other institutions, and increasingly on industrial and commercial premises. Since 1997 the profile of nest boxing has been raised by the annual national nest box week.

Basic types

The most common kinds of nest boxes seen in gardens and similar situations are as follows:

Special types

Among the nest boxes designed for birds with particular requirements, the following are relevant to at least some gardens:

In addition, boxes are now sold for the benefit of animals other than birds, for example the following:


Nest boxes can be home-made, and most types can be purchased from specialised suppliers of birdcare equipment. Basic boxes may be obtainable from local outlets such as garden centres and pet shops, but these are often badly designed and poorly made. It is best to obtain boxes from firms which stock a good range, including those made of new materials such as woodcrete.


Nest boxes should be firmly attached to a support such as a tree or wall facing away from the heat of the sun and avoiding the direction of the prevailing wind or rain, i.e., not facing between south and north-west in Britain. They should be fixed at least 1.5m (56in) above the ground, in a position which is as inaccessible as possible to cats and other predators, bearing in mind such routes as the tops of fences and walls as well as parts of trees. It is possible to prevent such animals climbing tree trunks by placing bundles of thorny twigs on the ground below, or by using the wire belt obtainable from Jacobi Jayne & Company for fitting round a trunk.

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