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Nest box

Western bluebird leaving a nest box

A nest box, also spelled nestbox, is a man-made enclosure provided for animals to nest in. Nest boxes are most frequently utilized for birds, in which case they are also called birdhouses or a birdbox/bird box, but some mammalian species may also use them. Placing nestboxes or roosting boxes may also be used to help maintain populations of particular species in an area. The nest box was invented by the British conservationist Charles Waterton in the early 19th century to encourage more birdlife on the wildfowl and nature reserve he set up on his estate.[1]


  • Construction 1
    • General construction 1.1
    • Bird nest box construction 1.2
    • Bat nest box construction 1.3
  • Other creatures 2
  • Birdhouses 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


General construction

Nest boxes are usually wooden, although the purple martin will nest in metal.[2] Some boxes are made from a mixture of wood and concrete, called woodcrete.

Nest boxes should be made from untreated wood with an overhanging, sloped roof, a recessed floor, drainage and ventilation holes, a way to access the interior for monitoring and cleaning, and have no outside perches which could assist predators.[3] Boxes may either have an entrance hole or be open-fronted. Some nest boxes can be highly decorated and complex, sometimes mimicking human houses or other structures. They may also contain nest box cameras so that use of, and activity within, the box can be monitored.[4]

Bird nest box construction

Birdhouses in Gramercy Park, New York City, note the use of different diameter entrance holes

The diameter of the opening in a nest-box has a very strong influence on the species of birds that will use the box. Many small birds select boxes with a hole only just large enough for an adult bird to pass through. This may be an adaptation to prevent other birds from raiding it. In European countries, an opening of 2,5 cm in diameter will attract Poecile palustris, Poecile montanus; an opening of 2,8 cm in diameter will attract Ficedula hypoleuca, and an opening of 3 cm in diameter will attract Parus major, Passer montanus, an opening of 3 cm in diameter will attract Passer domesticus.[5]

The size of the nest box also affects the bird species likely to use the box. Very small boxes attract wrens and treecreepers and very large ones may attract ducks and owls. Seasonally removing old nest material and parasites is important if they are to be successfully re-used.

The material used in the construction may also be significant. Sparrows have been shown to prefer woodcrete boxes rather than wooden ones. Birds nesting in woodcrete sites had earlier clutches, a shorter incubation period, and more reproductive success, perhaps because the synthetic nests were warmer than their wooden counterparts.[6]

Placement of the nest box obviously is also significant. Some birds (including birds of prey[7][8]) prefer their nest box to be at an optimum height. Some birds (such as ducks) prefer nest sites them to be very low or even at ground level. For many birds orientation relative to the sun is of importance with many birds preferring an orientation away from direct sun and sheltered from the prevailing rain.[9]

Bat nest box construction

A typical bat house affixed to a tree trunk

Bat boxes differ from bird nest-boxes in typical design, with the larger opening on the underside of the box, and are more often referred to as roost boxes, although in regard to the rearing of young, they serve the same purpose. Threatened bat species can be locally supported with the provision of appropriately placed bat-boxes. Bats are a means of natural mosquito and insect control in some parts of the world. A single bat can eat 500 to 1,000 mosquitoes per night[10] as well as other insect pests.[11] Directions for making the open bottom bat houses for small and large colonies,[12][13] as well as locations to purchase them are available on the internet.[14] Bat houses are an ecologically friendly way of controlling mosquitoes as pesticides mostly kill the mosquitoes' predators rather than mosquitoes.[13] Australian bat box projects have been running for over 12 years in particular at the

Other creatures

Two wasp nests inside a nest box set for boreal owls.

Nest boxes are marketed not only for birds and bats, but also for butterflies[15] and other mammals, especially arboreal ones such as squirrels and opossums. Depending on the animal, these boxes are used for roosting, breeding, or both. Or, as in the case with butterflies, hibernation.[15]

Wasps may build their nests inside a nest box intended for other animals, and may exclude the intended species.


See also


  1. ^ "Charles Waterton (1782 - 1865)". Retrieved 2013-12-16. 
  2. ^ "Before Buying a Birdhouse". Duncraft's Wild Bird Blog. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  3. ^ "Attracting Birds With Nest Boxes". The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Cornell University. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  4. ^ Phillips, Tina; Cooper, Caren. "Lights, Camera, Action! Nest Box Cam technology reveals rarely seen events". Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Cornell University. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  5. ^ Pauline Pears (2005), HDRA encyclopedia of organic gardening, Dorling Kindersley,  
  6. ^ García-Navas, Vicente; Arroyo, Luis; Sanz, Juan José; Díaz, Mario (2008). in central Spain"Passer montanus"Effect of nestbox type on occupancy and breeding biology of tree sparrows (PDF). Ibis 150: 356–364.  
  7. ^ Falcon nest box position
  8. ^ Various nest box designs (various species)
  9. ^ Siting a nest-box - RSPB
  10. ^ "Bats and Bat Houses". Mosquito Abatement District-Davis Headquarters, Kaysville, UT. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  11. ^ McAvoy, Gene. "Hendry County Horticulture News: Bats Eat Mosquitoes as Well as Numerous Garden Pests". University of Florida; Cooperative Extension Service. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  12. ^ "Single chamber bat house (wall mounted)". Bat Conservation International. Archived from the original on 2007-10-31. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  13. ^ a b Brown, Carla. "Why I Built A Bat House". National Wildlife Federation. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  14. ^ Boleky, Vaughan (2005–2006). "Why Are Bat Houses Important?". Organization for Bat Conservation. Archived from the original on 2007-11-10. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  15. ^ a b Nina Bergström. "Fixa fint för fjärilarna", Expressen, 16 June 2011. Retrieved 28 June 2011. (In Swedish)

External links

  • Nest box page from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
  • Birds Australia Information Sheet 5: Nestboxes for Natives PDF download
  • Rob McDonald, "Birdhouses," Southern Spaces, 12 July 2006.
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