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Last updated: March 17, 2022
Once you’ve decided to install a birdhouse, it’s important to think about ways to attract birds to your backyard so they can use that birdhouse.
In addition to the decorative value, a birdhouse can also offer environmental benefits. But choosing the right bird house and making sure that birds are actually attracted to it, is more complicated than you might think.
In this article, I am going to outline 12 ways to attract birds to a birdhouse, so that you, your backyard, and your new resident birds can make the most of it.
1. Choose the Right Design
Different types of birds have different needs when it comes to finding a suitable place to nest.
Some birds require absolute privacy, whereas other birds are more community oriented. Some birds prefer their birdhouse to blend into a forest environment, others prefer their home to be part of a set of bird nests. There’s the traditional house shaped nests, and there are also round shaped birdhouses.
This very much depends on the types of birds that live in the area where you live, so it’s important to do a bit of research into that.
If you would like to find out more about different birdhouses or nest box designs, this resource offers an interactive way of working out which birds need which types of nest boxes and in which region.
2. Choose the Right Size
Similar to the previous point, different types of birds need differently sized birdhouses.
This one seems very obvious of course, but before buying a generic bird house from the pet shop, definitely do a bit of research into the types of birds that live in your area.
In general, smaller birds need smaller houses, and vice versa. But there are also birds that prefer small and cozy whereas other breeds need bigger houses that they can move around in.
The above shared resource can help with this.
3. Choose the Right Location
Perhaps the most important factor that decides whether birds will be attracted to your new birdhouse is its location.
Again, the preferences will vary per breed, however there are certain things that almost all birds will find important when searching for a new home to nest.
It’s important to place a birdhouse where predators are less likely to be a threat. This can be on a pole in an open area, or a bit higher up attached to a tree. Also make sure that the birdhouse is installed a reasonable distance away from where people walk or sit.
As mentioned, do some research beforehand to make sure you’re going to install a birdhouse in the right location for the right breed.
4. Consider the Hole Size
The size of the birdhouse entrance hole is often taken for granted, and how disappointing would it be if birds are ignoring your birdhouse simply because the hole is too small.
Different breeds require different birdhouse entrance sizes. This makes perfect sense because some birds are obviously bigger than others. But the hole should also be as small as possible, because that will help keep predators out.
Check out this handy guide explaining the ideal entrance hole size and shape for different bird species that may exist in your area.
5. Consider the Appropriate Height
This one may not be as obvious, but it’s important to consider the best height for your new backyard birdhouse. The appropriate height will depend on the type of bird.
Examples of bird species that prefer birdhouses a bit lower to the ground, like 4 to 10 feet, are chickadees, bluebirds, and house wrens. Birds that prefer to nest higher from the ground, like 15 to 40 feet, are purple martins and wood ducks.
6. Choose the Right Materials
In general, it’s always recommended to build or purchase a birdhouse that is made with natural materials such as wood. Untreated wood is the most ideal.
Also note that painting a birdhouse is perfectly fine, but only paint the exterior, and not the inside. Birds don’t like the smell of paint, and inside the birdhouse these smells and fumes stick around for much longer.
7. Make the Birdhouse Waterproof
Most birdhouses that you can buy today will be waterproof. The best way to achieve that is by having a slanted roof that forces rainwater to run off on the sides.
It’s also important to have the roof extend over the sides of the house to avoid water dripping on the walls and the entry.
8. Ventilation and Drainage Holes
Ventilation is also important which can be easily achieved by drilling a few small holes in the back wall of the birdhouse.
Drainage can also be beneficial in case there is some water sipping through, and this can be achieved by drilling a couple of small holes in the corners of the floor of the house.
9. Clean It Out for Next Season
People often wonder if a birdhouse needs to be cleaned out. I personally prefer to do so, but only once a year before the new nesting season starts.
It doesn’t need to be crystal clean, but remove the previous nest if there is one, give it a good scrub, and perhaps use a cleaning solution to remove poop, bugs, parasites, and such.
10. Food Sources Nearby
Installing a birdhouse in a place where there are no food sources nearby will of course impact the popularity of that birdhouse in a negative way.
Food sources can be natural, such as insects and seeds, but they can also be manually provided, such as bird feeders.
Different bird species will eat different things, but in general, if there are plant seeds and insects nearby, that will naturally attract more birds.
Another thing you can do is spread some rolled oats onto a platform or onto the ground, because oats are a great bird food, especially for granivorous birds.
11. Birdbath Nearby
Birds need to drink water, so if there is a water source close to where you want to install your birdhouse, then that will definitely help in attracting birds to come to your bird house.
This water source doesn’t necessarily need to be in your backyard, it can also be a pond or a lake nearby. But what will certainly help is placing a birdbath close to where you want to install the birdhouse.
Check out my list of decorative bird bath ideas for some great options for birdbaths that are both aesthetically pleasing as well as functional.
12. Trees and Shrubs Nearby
This is also a bit dependent on the bird species, but most birds will thrive in a more natural looking environment to make them feel most comfortable.
If there are trees, plants, and shrubs nearby, then that will help with creating that natural environment. And not only that, it will also provide more shelter, food sources, and materials to build their nests.