Choose the Right Bird House


About three dozen species of birds will nest in a nesting box. These include chickadees, titmice, bluebirds and wrens.

What You Need

  • metal pole for some boxes
  • predator baffle or dome
  • wood shavings for some boxes
  • wood working tools if building from scratch
  • wooden nesting box

What You Do

  1. Choose a high-quality nesting box.
    • Constructed of natural untreated wood (pine, cedar, or fir)
    • Lumber for walls that is at least ¾ of an inch thick to provide insulation
    • An entrance hole of the appropriate size to allow desired birds to enter but keep larger birds out
    • An entrance that is the correct distance from the floor to accommodate the nest
    • An extended and sloped roof to keep the rain out
    • A recessed floor and drainage holes to keep the interior dry
    • Rough or grooved interior walls to help fledglings exit
    • Ventilation holes to allow the interior to remain cool
    • A side or top panel that opens to allow easy access for monitoring and cleaning
    • No outside perches, which aid predators and other harassing birds


  2. Attract house wrens, Carolina wrens, robins, phoebes and swallows.
    These birds love nesting boxes. Their ideal box is 4” x 4” or 4” x 6” with a base of 8 inches. The entry hole needs to be 1-1/8”, centered 6” above the floor. The house needs to be 5–10’ high on post or hanging in a tree. House wrens prefer to be closer to the house. Robins, phoebes and swallows prefer a box attached to a house, porch or barn.
  3. Attract bluebirds.
    Bluebirds prefer a house that is 5-1/2” x 5-1/2” x 10” high. They need an entry hole that is 1-1/2” wide and centered 6” above the floor. The house needs to be 5–10’ high on post facing an open field because they like to eat young insects that they find in the field.
  4. Attract chickadees, titmice and tree swallows.
    These species like a house about the same size as house and Caroline wrens, except they need a slightly larger entry hole at 1-1/4”. They like the box to be 4–8’ high. Chickadees and titmice prefer a small tree thicket., whereas tree swallows prefer open fields or water.
  5. Attract purple martins.
    Purple martins have unique nesting box needs in that they use apartment houses that accommodate numerous families. They prefer apartments 6” x 6” x 6” each, with a 2-1/2” entry hole. They need the entry hole to be 2-1/4” above floor. Whereas most species prefer nesting boxes in earth colors, purple martins like white houses. They are attracted to houses placed 15–20’ high in the open, near water. They seek a big lawn or field to hunt insects. They also like perching on nearby utility wires.
  6. Attract wood ducks and screech-owls.
    Both wood ducks and screech-owls seek a larger house – 10” x 10” x 24” high. They need an oval shaped hole that is 4” wide x 3” high, centered 20” above the floor. They like a nesting box on a post 3–5’ feet above open water or on a tree 12–40’ high near water. Wood shavings layered for 3-4” inches on the floor make great nesting materials. Wood ducks need to be near water so they can take their ducklings for a swim. Screech-owls need to be in a forest of mature trees.
  7. Attract woodpeckers.
    All woodpeckers seek boxes mounted 8-20’ high on a tree trunk. They also like four inches of wood shavings on the floor. Each species of woodpecker prefers a slightly different size of nesting box. Northern flicker need the largest size at 7” x 7” x 18” high, with an entry hole that is 2-1/2”, centered 14” above the floor. Red-headed woodpeckers like a slightly smaller nesting box that is 6” x 6” x 15” high with an entry hole that is 2”wide, centered 6–8” above the floor. Downy woodpeckers like an even smaller nesting box that is 4” x 4” x 10” high with an entry hole that is 1-1/4”, centered 6–8” above the floor.
    This activity was adapted from the article “Rooms to Let, Cheep, Cheep ” (Needs Link) by Cynthia Berger, National Wildlife, February/March 2008.