Nest Box Plans

Did you know it takes over 100 years for a tree to form natural hollows? In suburbia, by the time a tree gets old and large enough for this to happen, they are often removed as they can be dangerous. Natural hollows are used by many different types of birds like parrots, kookaburras and pardalotes. Nest boxes may be a viable alternative to these hollows and are a great way to observe birds in all their life stages in your garden.

 

What is a nest box?

A nest box (or nestbox) is a box built especially for animals to nest in. Nest boxes are usually built for particular species of birds, but some mammals (e.g. possums) may also use them. A nest box is sometimes called a 'birdhouse', but this is not quite right - birds only use them to make their nests in during breeding season, not as a more permanent shelter or home.

 

Will I attract many birds by putting up a nest box?

All birds have very particular requirements when it comes to nesting and breeding, so just putting up a nest box to attract birds to nest in your garden, probably won't work without some planning and thinking about what you actually want to attract. Most of our bird life including almost all our little birds, build their own nests and won't use a nest box.

Different birds require different shaped boxes so you need to think about what you want to attract before you start to build your box.

 

Are nest boxes really necessary?

If you want to provide a nest box for a particular species, it is best to check with the Environmental Officer of your Local Government Authority that this species needs your assistance, before you put in your bird box. For example, there are many Rainbow Lorikeets living in the Sydney region and, although they are beautiful and fun-loving birds, too many of them create problems for other birds. So, rather than providing these already abundant birds with a nest box, it would be better to attract other less fortunate birds by planting thickets for them to nest in. Try putting up a nest box for small parrots, pardalotes, owls or nightjars instead of the usual large parrot box.

 

Nest boxes need to be planned carefully

Nest boxes require care and vigilance. Having a nest box isn't just about putting up a box and forgetting about it. Sometimes other species can move in, such as bees, Common Starlings or Common Mynas, which need to be evicted. There are designs available that can exclude some of these unwanted intruders.

So, if you do want to provide a suitable nest box for the right bird species, make sure you do some research first!

 

Some general tips:

  • Face the nest-box away from prevailing winds. This usually means they should face north-east and place them out of the direct midday sun. Also ensure the box is waterproof and drill drainage holes in the bottom.
  • Place tree-guards or exclusion collars around branches around the nest box to stop cats and rats reaching the box.
  • Cut a ladder into the inside from the opening to the floor. This gives the baby birds something to grip onto when they are ready to climb out of the nest.
  • Be aware of invasion! Feral honeybees as well as introduced birds like the Common Myna and Common Starling will often try and set up home in a nest box. Make sure you have easy access to your nest box and can destroy honeybee nests or remove the nesting material and eggs of introduced birds. In some cases these birds can be persistant so you may need to do this multiple times.
  • Monitor your nest box. Record usage, breeding success or failure, predation or aggression by introduced birds. Building up a data set over seasons and eventually over years provides invaluable information on the breeding success of native birds in suburbia. This can be submitted to your local bird club, local council or BirdLife Australia branch who will gladly accept data.
  • When birds start to use the box, keep your distance. They are most likely to abandon a nest when still constructing it. Resist the urge to check inside and leave them to do their thing.

 

Nest Box Plans

Birds in Backyards has developed a series of nest box plans for a range of Australian birds - you can see them below. There are nest boxes for 13 different birds, so we have made sure there is a nest box suitable for wherever you live. Some birds, like Rainbow Lorikeets and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, are breeding fine in our parks, remnants and gardens, so we have targeted some less common and less well known birds in our plans. 

And remember nest boxes are only part of the solution – we need to make sure our birds have suitable habitat in our suburbs as well, so don’t forget to keep planting in your garden – see our section on backyard habitat planting.

Please note these boxes are a guide only – feel free to modify them to suit your requirements. For example there are a range of different ways to attach nest boxes to trees. The plans are based on 15mm thick timber (the minimum thickness you should use), so adjust the dimensions for different thicknesses (the base panel size will stay the same and we have provided internal and external dimensions).

The plans contain information on the bird, where it lives, what materials you need, and how to build, install and maintain your nest box. Click the links below to view and download the plans you need.

 

 

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