Importance of Nest Boxes

Blue Tit on a nest box by Gillian Day

Blue Tit on a nest box by Gillian Day

Robin on a birch log open nest box

Robin on a birch log open nest box

Every year Valentines Day marks the start of National Nest Box Week (14th-21st February). The week aims to encourage people to contribute to the conservation effort of breeding birds in the UK, by putting up nest boxes in their local area i.e. in a garden or local park.

Nest boxes are becoming increasingly important for breeding birds as natural nest sites, holes in trees and old buildings, disappear due to building repairs or manicuring gardens. Loss of these habitats can have devastating consequences for bird species which use the same nest site year on year, for example swifts. Swifts often nest in spaces under the eaves of old houses and churches, this allows the bird to drop into flight straight from the nest. When these buildings are repaired those vital nest sites are lost, this causes a huge problem for swifts, which pair for life and meet their mate every year at the same nest site.

Thankfully nest boxes are an effective replacement for natural nest sites. There are different nest boxes to suit the varying needs of different species. The most familiar nest box shape for many people is the blue tit box, a small box with a hole approximately 25mm in diameter. Robins and wrens prefer an open-fronted box, whereas sparrows, which like to nest with neighbours, often have boxes which contain three or more nest compartments. Lost swift nest sites can be replaced by fitting a nest box under the eaves of a multi-storey house, or by installing a ‘swift brick’ into the wall as a new building is made (see: http://www.swift-conservation.org/swift_bricks.htm).

Putting a nest box in your garden is a fantastic thing to do for breeding birds, and you may have the privilege of seeing breeding birds move in and raise their young.

by Megan Howells, People and Wildlife Officer

Visit our wildlife gardening page for more information about building your own nest box.