Screech Owl in Nest Box - Birds that nest in birdhouses

Birds That Nest In Birdhouses

I’m pretty sure that a pair of Carolina Chickadees are building a nest or already have a nest in a birdhouse out in my yard.  I thought it was the first time for a chickadee to build a nest in it but my husband reminded me that we had a pair two years ago.   That is a good thing because I just love chickadees!

Not every bird will use a birdhouse for nesting purposes.  Robins, for example, prefer open ledges or the tops of bushes or small trees,  and Cardinals prefer dense shrubs or a low tree for building their cup-shaped nest.  There are other birds who build their nests on the ground too, like Killdeer, ducks, quail, and geese.

Birds that nest in birdhouses or cavities are Bluebirds, Chickadees and House Wrens as I mentioned earlier, Tufted Titmice, the ever present House Sparrow, Purple Martins, Tree Swallows (2nd photo), Screech Owls (top photo), some woodpeckers, and also nuthatches.


Screech Owl in Nest Box - Birds that nest in birdhouses


Tree Swallow in nest box - birds that nest in birdhouses



Keep in mind that each of these species of bird requires a certain size nesting box and also the appropriate entry hole size.   A Bluebird nesting box should have a round entrance hole measuring 1½” to 19/16″ in diameter, for example, and should be placed about three to six feet from the ground.   House Wrens just need a one inch entry hole, and Chickadees, Titmice, and Carolina Wrens need a 1 1/8 inch entry hole.  If you go bigger than that then you get House Sparrows.

Of course the location of the birdhouse is another very important factor.  Bluebirds prefer a habitat around an open field or open woods so it may be a little challenging to attract them if you do not have that.  Tree Swallows like to be near lakes and ponds, and Purple Martins like open areas near water too.  Just some things to keep in mind if you want particular birds to attract in your yard.  It is always good to do your research or you can ask at your local wild bird feed store for more information.  Or you can always ask me.  I would be happy to help you too.


Do Birdhouses Need a Perch?

The experts say that birds really do not need to have a perch on a birdhouse.  They are able to fly straight into the hole without any problem for one thing they claim, and having a perch just allows predators like the raccoon, cats, squirrels, and other birds to easily want to attack or raid the nest inside.    I have to admit, my one birdhouse does have a perch on it but I have never had a problem with it attracting predators.


Camouflage Colors Are Best For Birdhouses

Experts also say camouflage colors are best for birdhouses.  I know, I know, those cutesy birdhouses shaped like a bumble bee or flamingo are so decorative and cute in your garden and in all probability a wren or house sparrow (depending on the entry hole size) may end up using it.  However, experts claim that most birds prefer nesting boxes that blend in with the environment and that are more camouflaged in coloring.  Grays, browns, tans, dull green, or natural wood coloring are supposed to be the best because they do not attract predators.   If you beg to differ let me know about your experience with this.  Feel free to comment at the bottom of this page I would love to hear about it.


Do Birds Use Birdhouses Only For Nesting Purposes?

Birds utilize birdhouses not only to build their nests in during breeding season but also as a roosting place and for protective shelter from predators and bad weather.  So you do not need to take them down once nesting season is over as birds will use it all year long.  As you can see in the photos below, chickadees definitely use my birdhouses in winter.


chickadee in nest box - birds that nest in birdhouses

  chickadee at nest box - birds that nest in birdhouses



Should You Clean Out Your Birdhouse?

It is always good to clean out your birdhouses at the end of breeding season which is around August but later is okay too.  Always check first to make sure there aren’t any active nests.  How do you do that?  You can tap on the box lightly and listen for any birds or just observe it for a while.  If it is active a bird will be going in and out of it periodically during the day.

NOTE:  Most birds do not use their old nests so you’re okay with taking them out.  


How Do You Attract Birds To Your Birdhouse?

Birds need to have a food source nearby as well as water for drinking and bathing.  Having a bird feeder nearby and placing a birdbath close to your birdhouse is a good idea.  Also, consider where you place your birdhouse.  You don’t want predators like squirrels, raccoons, and cats to be able to easily access the nesting box.  If the birdhouse is on a pole you may want to consider getting a squirrel guard which is great for keeping away raccoons too.





To Conclude

If you are thinking about putting a birdhouse or two in your yard you have to consider what birds you wish to attract to it.  Think about color, size, and also entry hole size as House Wrens need a one inch hole while Chickadees, Titmice, and Carolina Wrens need a 1 1/8 inch hole.  Bluebirds require a 1 1/2 inch round hole, and House Sparrows need at least a 1 3/16 to a 2 inch hole.

The best way is to check the label when you are purchasing a birdhouse to make sure what birds may use it.  Of course you could also build your own too.  There are websites that provide information on birdhouse specifications for each bird species.  The cutesy ones probably won’t provide information as to the type of birds it may attract but if you measure the entry hole you will have a good idea.

Just don’t count on a bird taking up residence as soon as you place it in your yard.  Sometimes it takes a little time before the birds notice it.  However, if you have all the necessities of food, water, good habitat, and good placement of the birdhouse, the odds are that you will attract birds fairly quickly as we usually do.

Do you have birdhouses in your yard and how successful are you attracting birds into them?   I would love to hear from you.  Please feel free to make your comments below.


Happy Birding!  Cheers!





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Posted in Backyard Birds, In The Garden, Landscaping For Birds, Owls, Songbirds and tagged , .


  1. I have a House Wren that decided to move into a decorative birdhouse I have on a shelf on my deck. Do I attempt to move it or just let it alone? Is this nest for babies or just to live in?Not sure of their breeding schedules in New York ?

    • Hi Susan, I would leave the birdhouse alone as it probably has a nest in it. House Wrens have 2 broods a year and this is about the time for the 2nd one. They do not live in them so to speak as they only use nesting boxes for breeding. However, they may sometimes retreat to them during bad/cold weather. Hope this helps.

  2. Thanks for pointing out that we must consider what type of bird we would want to attract, and we can choose the right one for the certain breed by reading the labels that are provided on them before buying one. I will follow your advice since we have decided to buy at least three birdhouses for our garden because our garden is quite wide. We wanted to see any type of bird actually, but we wanted little ones which we will draw on our sketchpads as our hobby.

    • Millie, thanks for your post. Honestly, I am not that picky, I just love to observe the birds flying in and out of the nest boxes with their nesting materials and later tending to their young. Spring is such a great time of year for this very reason. Good luck and have fun with it.

  3. I have a bluebird house on a tree at the edge of woods in my yard. I wasn’t sure if it was being used so today I opened it and inside was a soft, damp bed of moss, twigs, acorn shells, etc. I don’t know why I did this, I assumed it was from last year and cleaned it out. It was only right after that I thought that because the bed/nest was soft and seemed fresh that I probably destroyed a nest from this year. I feel so bad that I did this. I was wondering if you think the birds will rebuild their nest or did I destroy their hard work forever?

    • Alan, you probably destroyed their nest but chances are they may just come back and build another one. If not, another pair will build one. Keep in mind that Tree Swallows also like to use bluebird nests. So you never know. I hope this helps. Good luck! Donna

  4. I would like to know what birds use twigs, and nothing but twigs to make a nest in my birdhouses. I know bluebirds like to use pine needles. And I know which sloppy nests are the sparrows, Just not sure if it is a swallow or something else. I have not had much success finding this out.

    • Hi Nancy, male House Wrens will use just twigs as a fake nest to keep other birds from nesting near them. They also mark nests like this to bring a female back later to decide if she wants to nest there or not. I have seen this around my house during nesting season where a male marked a couple of my bird boxes which never got used. I hope this helps. Thanks for your comments.

  5. I have a little birdhouse and recently have seen nesting material almost covering the hole! Is that normal for a particular bird? I haven’t seen any activity coming in or out.

    • Rosemary, the male House Wren will do this to keep other birds away. He is marking it for himself to attract a female and will do it several times at other locations so that the female can choose which one she likes. 🙂

  6. The information you gave is so inspiring. I have a birdhouse that birds have used twice this year to have their babies. The funny thing it is now October and it seems like the same 2 birds are back. It doesn’t look like they are building a nest but they come and go all day long. One seems to go in the early evening and then I think she leaves but they both come back the next day. So cool to watch. I’m happy if it’s a place to keep them from bad weather. I live in NH.

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