Nest Box Blues

My sparrow nest box from the RSPB

Dear Readers, when we had the external decorations done last year, I persuaded one of the chaps to climb up a ladder and put up the sparrow nest box that I’d been lovingly hoarding for several years. At this point, several sparrows were visiting every day, and I hoped to persuade them to linger – after all, they are a red list species and so any help that I can give them is a pleasure. I had noted, however, that the local sparrows (and the ones in Mum and Dad’s old garden) seemed to prefer thick beech hedges and holly trees to anywhere else. Communal breeders that they are, I suspect that they also need to have a big enough flock to feel safe. Nevertheless I persisted. We put the nest box in among the branches of the climbing hydrangea – by spring there should be cover. We positioned it pointing west so the babies wouldn’t overheat.

And then nothing happened for a whole year. Furthermore, I haven’t seem a house sparrow in the whole of lockdown.

However, several other birds have been to visit. A pair of coal tits popped in and found this des res unappealing. Some blue tits did the same, and then returned to their old nest box, under the eaves of the house next door. Apologies for the photo, it was taken after two cups of coffee and via a dusty pane of glass.

Now, I believe that birds prefer nest boxes where the holes are a snug fit, so this was never going to be a good choice for the smaller tits. However, in the past few days a pair of great tits have been showing much more interest, popping in and out and calling to one another. I have no idea if they will stay, but they’ve made me drop my croissant on several occasions.

So, readers, what are your experiences with nest boxes? I suspect that birds will always prefer a cozy nook in a tree or in a dense tangle of brambles, but if you’ve had any success with birds nesting in your garden, do let me know. I need all the encouragement I can get.

15 thoughts on “Nest Box Blues

  1. Anne

    With you having purchased this from the RSPB I assume it is the right sort of nesting box for sparrows – if that is what this neat row of apartments claims to be.I am reminded of the opening stanza of Norman MacCaig’s poem entitled “Sparrow”:
    He’s no artist.
    His taste in clothes is more
    dowdy than gaudy.’And his nest – that blackbird writing
    pretty scrolls on the air with the gold nib of his beak,
    would call it a slum.
    I have only used an owl box – it was inspected and discarded too.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Lovely poem! And blackbird nests are things of beauty, to be sure. I love sparrows though, such argumentative, feisty little things….

  2. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    We put up a single nest box on our chalet wall (under the terrace roof, but high up) and we’ve never had anything nest in it. I’m pretty sure the hole is far too big for the tits and the like which visit our garden. We did have something nest in the eaves one year and we discovered a half made nest above the door when we came back from holiday once, but I’ve no idea where they all go. But then, there are plenty of trees and bushes around.

  3. Ann Bronkhorst

    Similar nestbox, high up on a north-facing wall, just below the gutter and roof tiles under which sparrows have been popping in and out of our roof for years, nesting and roosting.
    A few broods used the box but roof space seems more popular: darker? more communal?
    Box too high for us to reach to clean it. Am worried about possible infections for birds.

  4. Gibson Square

    Our regular blue tits are popping in and out of our nest box, but yes you’re right, we have about 50 sparrows which remain in a pyracantha, preferring to nest there.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Having once tried to prune a pyracantha (the plant won ๐Ÿ™‚ ) I can see why the sparrows feel well protected when they’re nesting in there!

  5. christineburns2013

    Just a positive note re sparrows from Cumbria. We have 2 Holly trees and a mass of climbing rose and the sparrow population is significant. We were comparing it to a block of flats. Great fun.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      The sparrows in my garden checked out my gutter too – I think they like to be quite high up (sigh). I did think about putting the nest boxes higher up but then I’d never have been able to clean them out, and I worry about parasite load…

  6. Annie Edge

    We have two swift boxes high up on the back wall of our house (courtesy of the very active Hackney Swifts Society). The swifts have not nested in them yet but there was quite a lot of interest last year by juveniles so we are hopeful for this year. Meanwhile a pair of sparrows has taken over one and seem very comfortable!

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      That’s lovely, I do like to see the nest boxes used. I have a friend who had a bunch of tree bumblebees take up residence in one of hers! Apparently you can encourage the swifts to nest if you play a recording of their calls?? I wonder if the Hackney Swift Society would like to come north to Barnet ๐Ÿ˜‰


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