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You may be interested in having a bird house just for decoration, or you may be trying to attract certain types of birds.
However, if you want to attract a specific species, in most cases, you will need to build or buy a specific type of bird house. For example, Purple Martins nest in colonies and Robins nest on platforms without roofs. Most bird houses are square or rectangular and feature an entrance hole, keep in mind the size of the box and the size of the entrance hole will attract certain species.
Here are some types of bird houses that specific species nest in.
Bluebird houses are quite simple, with a small entrance hole and large roof for extra protection. Bluebirds’ boxes are commonly taken over by other small birds like House Sparrows, and because their population is declining, it is important to include a cone-shaped predator baffle and monitor the activity around the nest box.
Place a bluebird box in the sun and about 4 to 6 feet off the ground.
Purple Martins nest in colonies, so their bird houses are very different. Depending on how many you want to attract, you must build them in multiple levels. These bird houses are usually rounded, and should feature a protective roof as well. You can also simply hang several gourds in a cluster. This will help your chances of hosting some Purple Martins!
Purple Martin nests should be set about 40 feet from other obstacles, including trees and buildings at a height of 10 to 15 feet high.
To attract Wrens, the most important aspect of the bird house is the hole. Make sure the diameter is 1 1/4” which is large enough for all types of Wrens and Black-capped Chickadees to use, but too small for House Sparrows. Tree Swallows will also use this type of house.
Wren bird houses should be attached to a tree or a pole. The house should be placed close to or within some cover. The height can be anywhere from 3 feet to 10 feet off the ground. Black-Capped Chickadees also prefer a well-covered bird house.
If you would like to watch Robins, Barn Swallows or Phoebes nesting, you won’t need a bird house. Often considered a bird of spring, Robins begin their breeding cycles shortly after returning to their summer range. Their iconic pastel-colored eggs are unmistakable as well.
Robins, Barn Swallows and Phoebes nest on shelves or ledges — and often in locations that seem intrusive to human activities. However, you can attract them to areas you want by building a platform yourself.
All you need is a platform floor with a little border around it and a back piece for attaching it to your porch or under an eave. Blue Jays, Mourning Doves and Cardinals will also use these types of nesting platforms.
If you find a nest around your house, try not to disturb it. Moving it can be illegal, as some species of birds are protected by law. Birds will not abandon the nest if you touch it, but if they see you getting too close, they may abandon eggs that aren’t hatched.
Your best bet is to leave the nest as is and allow the birds using it to raise their young. At most, the entire process of nest creation, incubation and the young fledging will take about two months.
If you are interested in building your own bird houses, here is a useful chart outlining floor size, box height, height above the ground and entrance hole diameter sizes for different species.
For some specific bird house designs try these links:
Good luck and happy birding!