How can we attract more birds into our gardens? One way to do this is to put up bird boxes. The kinds of birds you attract will depend on the size of the box and the aperture in the front of it. Smaller birds, such as blue tits, coal tits and great tits are frequent tenants. For them the entrance hole at the front should be small. But larger boxes can attract sparrows or starlings. Boxes with open fronts will attract robins, wrens, wagtails and even spotted flycatchers.
October is national Reuse Month. The Southern Waste Region, through Cork County Council, along with Fota House, sponsored a bird-box making workshop in the Frameyard on Saturday, 22nd. In the spirit of recycling, we used wood from the old library at Fota House and gathered in the sun-filled greenhouse, under the guidance of Gerry Kelly, to put the boxes together.
It’s surprisingly simple to do this, once the pieces are carefully cut out. Unless your garden birds are particularly discerning, you don’t have to worry too much about the finish! But you should keep a few things in mind.
Making the box. Use solid, natural wood but avoid ceramic, plastic, brightly coloured or metal roofed boxes. These materials can cause overheating or condensation. If you want to treat the wood to make it more waterproof, use a water based preservative. Put ridges on the inside so that young chicks can climb up but don’t use perches (too useful for predators). You can nail the box together but screw on the roof so that you can open it up and clean it out at some stage. Allow for some drainage in the base.
Where to put the box. You can attach the box to a tree or a wall, in a reasonably sheltered place that’s not convenient for predators. Try to site it near a natural food source but not close to any bird feeders, as all the activity around feeders could disrupt the breeding. Keep it high enough from the ground, away from prowling cats. Open fronted boxes need to be in more sheltered spaces that entrance-hole ones.
Winter is a good time to put up your bird boxes. Before you know it, you’ll be having viewings as birds explore their options for Spring. Don’t take it personally if nobody moves into it the first year. Be patient. If birds do move into the next box, you can get joy from watching and listening to them or go one step further and install a camera.
All we need now are some birds and we’ll have our own avian reality TV show!