Nest Box No No

As humans, I think we can all admit that every single one of us has our own individual taste for the more wacky and quirky things in life. They could be in your face, bright, outstanding coloured ornaments or strange mystical objects, but either way, they are usually there for decoration. They look good, or at least in our opinion they do. However, our taste for such things can have a strange impact on wildlife. I’m not suggesting that your crazy-shaped, yellow wheelbarrow flower pot is considered quite vulgar by your local hedgehogs, but that it is more of a problem when we see objects such as quirky nest boxes beginning to appear in our gardens.


So what? Don’t our sparrows and tits enjoy a little dash of colour? Well, in all honesty, no they don’t. However, in fairness, they have their reasons. In fact, the new trend for such nest boxes has lead the RSPB to issue a warning, stating that such nest boxes can actually be dangerous for young birds. Over the past 5 years, there have apparently been an increase in reports of people displaying ornamental type nest boxes in their gardens, which are more concerned with style, rather than their appropriateness for the species they are trying to attract. Not only are brightly coloured nest boxes included in the warning, but also those in the shape of objects such as windmills, cars and caravans.

What exactly is the issue then? Is it just those conservationists trying to rain on everyones parade and ruin their fun with their silly rules? Well no. As I am sure many of you have guessed, humans are not the only ones who notice bright colours. Indeed, the concern is that species including cats and squirrels and birds of prey will recognise nest boxes and this will put small birds at greater risk of predation. In addition, nest boxes made of ceramic materials are also being cautioned against, as they can be too cold for nesting birds and are not the type of material they would usually nest in. Metal boxes also pose a problem. Imagine this, it’s a hot day, scorching even and everyone is outside enjoying their ice cream, but not you, no, you are stuck in a metal box, getting hotter and hotter with no way of escape. I’d overheat! Exactly and so will those small, fragile chicks confined to their nest box. It’s the same theory as leaving your dog in a hot car, just don’t do it. In addition, any sharp edges on metal boxes could harm birds on their way in and out of the box.

Now, you may think ‘well I have one of those, and the birds seem to use it!’ Maybe, but often the bird does not know that such a box will be unsuitable, at least not until it’s too late. So, enough of what we can’t use, what about what we can use? Well, I’m afraid this is one of those times to go for something boring, boring and traditional, yet perfect. Time for the fabulous saying: If it’s not broke, don’t fit it! Wooden boxes! That’s right, a wooden box with a V-shaped roof and one that is suitably waterproofed is all you need. Make sure the hole is the right size for your species of bird and the right size to keep predators out. Also, make sure it’s perch free so it doesn’t attract any unwanted visitors. But what if I quite like that pink windmill nest box? What if I just like the way it looks in my garden? No problem! Just block the entrance with something sturdy to keep the birds out.

Remember as we come to the end of nest box week, nest boxes are vital for our garden birds! Even if you quite like your ornamental nest box and intend to keep it, try and find some space for the old wooden ones? They might look a little dull to you, but they’re just to the taste of our robins, sparrows and blue tits!




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Eleanor Daisy Upstill-Goddard
I have been a bird enthusiast since I was a child and have just completed my MSc at Newcastle University on 'Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Management.'
Eleanor Daisy Upstill-Goddard

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