birdhouse sitting high above a yard
Photo: Nancy Andrews
To encourage nesters to turn your birdhouse into a home, follow this advice from National Audubon Society birding expert Stephen W. Kress:

Site it right. Birds that like to lay their eggs in nesting boxes prefer ones that get morning sun and have entrance holes sheltered from prevailing winds. Having a fresh water source nearby is another plus.

Place it high. To protect nesters from marauders, including raccoons, squirrels, snakes, and house sparrows, Kress suggests installing houses on metal poles about 5 feet above the ground and 10 feet from branches or buildings. (You can buy post adaptors that screw into the base of the houses to anchor them to the poles, about $5 each; available from Duncraft.) Slide a cone-shaped baffle onto the pole below the house to make it more difficult for climbing predators to reach the nest.

Keep it clean. A little annual housekeeping makes a house more inviting to newcomers. Come fall, when breeding season ends, open the box (most unscrew from the back, bottom, or top) and clean it out. Use a spatula to remove old nesting material, and wipe down the inside with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Thoroughly rinse the inside, then let it dry completely before closing up the birdhouse. Condition the exterior only with a coat of linseed oil on bare wood or a fresh coat of water-based latex paint. Then keep an eye out for a new batch of residents in the spring.
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