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Birdhouse Ideas

Updated on September 1, 2017
Jeanne Grunert profile image

Jeanne Grunert is a Virginia Master Gardener, gardening magazine columnist, and book author. She is a full-time freelance writer.

Phoebes in the nest.
Phoebes in the nest. | Source

Backyard Birdhouses

While you may have many birdhouse ideas, choosing the right birdhouse for your garden or backyard bird sanctuary is an important step to nurture the local bird population. In the wild, birds choose different places to build their nests. Some, such as owls, prefer a hollow in the trunk of a tree; others such as swallows look for cliffs, ledges, or buildings upon which to craft their nests. Some even make nests on the ground among the leaves and twigs, such as the whippoorwill, and some build a nest in shrubs, such as the mockingbird.

If you want to attract birds to your garden or backyard, you'll need to build or purchase the right kind of birdhouse that can accommodate the bird species that live in your area. Your local university or Cooperative Extension office may be able to provide you with guidance. Or you can let your own senses guide you. If you take some time each day to note which birds are visiting your garden, you can look up the type of birdhouse they prefer on a website such as the World Wildlife Federation website listed in the Links section below. These handy charts help the amateur bird watching enthusiast not only choose the appropriate birdhouse, but hang it at the right height and in the right place to attract various bird species.

Another technique you can use is to set up various birdfeeders. This attracts birds to the garden, and you can start noting which birds visit your feeder regularly. Jot down the names of the birds you see in a little notebook or on a piece of paper. If you're not sure how to identify birds, a good guidebook such as the Peterson's Field Guide to Birds will help you identify your backyard bird feeder visitors.

Wild birds are rapidly losing their natural habitat due to development, road construction, logging and other activities that encroach upon their nesting areas. By adding a birdhouse to your yard, you'll provide a safe place for birds to raise their young. Here are several birdhouse ideas, many of which are easy for beginning carpenters to build.

Bluebird House
Bluebird House | Source

Traditional Box Birdhouses

When most people think of a birdhouse, they imagine the traditional box-shape, with slanting roof, round hole, and peg perch. This type of birdhouse works well for many species such as sparrows, but the placement and size of the hole attracts different birds. Some birds prefer the hole nearer the top, and a long, rectangular box such as the bluebird house shown here. Others like the traditional square-shape. Learn which bird species live in your area, and provide them with what they like; they won't "make do" like newlyweds in a cramped apartment - they'll move on until they find quarters more to their liking!

Once you've chosen the type of birdhouse you wish to include in your backyard bird sanctuary, placing it appropriately is also important. Bluebird houses such as the one shown here are placed so that the opening faces south or southeast; they prefer houses on poles or trees just about five feet off the ground or so. Other birds may prefer sheltering branches or bushes nearby.

Platform nest box
Platform nest box | Source

Platform or Open Birdhouses

We discovered quite by accident the need to include a platform-type of birdhouse, or a three-sided birdhouse, in our garden plans. One spring, we noticed some brown birds that my guidebook helped me identify as phoebes rapidly flying under the overhang of our front porch. It wasn't until one windy night that my husband discovered what they were up to; they were building a nest on the blades of the porch ceiling fan! The top picture in this article shows the baby birds at about 3 weeks old. We ended up duct-taping the fan blades to the roof of the porch to prevent the poor little birds from spinning around. I can only imagine that hatching into that nest was like hatching into a tilt-a-whirl at the carnival!

Since then, we've done considerable research and discovered that not only do birds such as the phoebes seek a sheltered platform upon which to build their nest, but robins and swallows also like platform-style birdhouses. These are simple to construct. Find a good plan online, and use untreated pine. Northwest Ohio's website offers manyfree birdhouse plans, including the one we used to build the house shown here.

The tricky part is suspending them where you think the birds will use them. We hung ours near the ceiling fan, hoping to attract the parents or babies back for another nesting season (no luck yet) but we have also hung similar houses in the woods on our farm. The one shown here is suspended using thin wires; we ran the wires to the porch ceiling and railing to keep the birdhouse from swaying in the wind. In the woods, we simply nailed the birdhouses to trees. We hope that the robins find them this spring and find one suitable enough to raise their young.

Other Birdhouse Ideas

Even if you're not handy with a hammer and saw, you can still make a birdhouse. Certain types of gourds are often used for birds; these make attractive birdhouses or even backyard decorations. You can even make a birdhouse from a milk carton, a fun craft that children may enjoy.

Attracting birds to the garden can be as simple or as complicated as you'd like it to be. These birdhouse ideas provide you with the starting point to enhance your backyard bird sanctuary. By adding feeders and a house or two, you're giving wild birds just what they need to survive and thrive.

Make a Birdhouse from a Milk Carton

© 2012 Jeanne Grunert


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    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      Beautiful up close photo of the baby birds and very helpful tips. Also, I did not know that robins prefer platform nest boxes. Glad that you discovered those little phoebes before turning the fan on. I'm sure they appreciated the duct tape intervention.


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