Nestbox building is a good activity for the autumn, ready for occupation (hopefully!) the following spring.

Siting the Nestbox

Both types of nestboxes are best attached to a wall rather than a tree. Predators are more likely to be able to climb or land in trees. On a wall, the only predator that is still a threat is the magpie. Make sure there isn’t a convenient perch nearby and give the box a generous overhang. Squirrels will try and widen the hole in a nestbox of they get the opportunity – a metal plate around the hole will prevent them doing this. Nuthatches seem to like boxes with large holes so that they can reduce the size by plastering a ring of mud around the opening.

Many nestboxes in schools are poorly sited, mainly because the first consideration has been for a ‘good view’. However, where nestboxes are sited in relatively exposed positions they should be placed in the sector north to south-east. This avoids strongest sun – birds can keep their young warm but find it almost impossible to keep them cool – and the wettest winds which come from the north-west an south-west. Generally. The smaller species do not show any preference for height, so consideration should be given to the ease of inspection and avoidance of predators. If it is not easy to get above the box to look in, a mirror mounted on a long handle should give you the inside story!

If you have a class if 30 children all wishing to make their own boxes some thought will have to be given to their density. If you are happy to attract starlings and sparrows which breed colonially there is no problem – just set them up as a terrace or block of flats. If, however, the aim is to attract a wider variety of species, including the much more territorial great and blue tits, a density of 5 – 10 per hectare is recommended.

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