Nest in the Wissahickon Forest in Philadelphia

Choosing a Nest Box

nest box along Wissahickon Creek

 

Some birds naturally nest in snags. They are called cavity nesters. But when snags (dead trees) are cut down in yards, streets, parks and forests, the cavity nesters have no where to rise their young or find protection for the winter. We can help by putting up nest boxes.

Many cavity nesting birds prefer certain specifications in their nesting sites. Below the box dimensions needed by various species of birds are given to help you choose what size you need.

  • size of nest box
  • how tall the box is
  • how high the entrance hole is from the bottom of the box
  • the size of the entrance hole
  • and high high up from the ground the box is placed

Some of these specifications are to help guard against predators. Others are to keep invasive species such as Starlings or House Sparrows from taking over a nest box.

Where to Pace a Nest Box

  • the nest boxes should be placed sheltered form the rain
  • out of the direct sun
  •  out of the reach of predators

These guidelines are useful for making nest boxes but for buying nest boxes, too.
And remember, not all birds will nest in a box. Only the birds that naturally nest in tree cavity or other enclosed spaces will.

Nest Box Dimensions

Species Box floor
(inches)
Box height
(inches)
Entrance
height (inches)
Entrance
(inches)
Placement
diameter height
(feet)
American Robin* 7 x 8 8
Eastern & Western Bluebirds 5 x 5 8 – 12 6 – 10 1 ½ 4 – 6
Mountain Bluebirds 5 x 5 8 – 12 6 – 10 1 ½ 4 – 6
Chickadee 4 x 4 8 – 10 6 – 8 1 1/8 4 – 15
Titmouse 4 x 4 10 – 12 6 – 10 1 ¼ 5 – 15
Ash-throated Flycatcher 6 x 6 8 – 12 6 – 10 1 ½ 5 – 15
Great CrestedFlycatcher 6 x 6 8 – 12 6 – 10 1 ¾ 5 – 15
Phoebe* 6 x 6 6 8 – 12
Brown-headed/Pygmy/Red-breasted Nuthatch 4 x 4 8 – 10 6 – 8 1 ¼ 5 – 15
White-breasted Nuthatch 4 x 4 8 – 10 6 – 8 1 3/8 5 – 15
Prothonotary Warbler 5 x 5 6 4 – 5 1 1/8 4 – 8
Barn Swallow* 6 x 6 6 8 – 12
Purple Martin 6 x 6 6 1 – 2 2 ¼ 6 – 20
Tree and Violet-green Swallows 5 x 5 6 – 8 4 – 6 1 ½ 5 – 15
*Use nesting shelf, platform with three sides and an open front

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