Birds That Use Birdhouses and How to Attract Them

Birdhouses provide safe nesting sites and shelter for many species of birds. With careful placement and the right design, you can attract lovely feathered friends to take up residence in manmade homes in your backyard. This article explores different birds that will use birdhouses, tips for attracting them, and how to properly place and care for birdhouses.

Types of Birds That Use Birdhouses

Many birds make their homes in the cavities of trees, nesting in old woodpecker holes or other natural hollows. For species that nest in cavities, putting up a birdhouse is an invitation to move in. Here are some birds that commonly use birdhouses:


Bluebirds are among the most popular birds that people want to attract to their yards. These beautiful songbirds with brilliant blue plumage readily take to nest boxes.

The Eastern Bluebird and Western Bluebird species nest in cavities and are frequently seen using birdhouses. Bluebirds have two broods per summer, so they will use a house more than once.

Tips to attract bluebirds:

  • Place nest boxes in open, grassy areas away from bushes and trees. Bluebirds like to perch on fences or wires with an open view before approaching the nest.
  • Use a birdhouse design with a 1 1/2 inch diameter entrance hole and a depth of 5-6 inches.
  • Mount houses 5-10 feet high on wooden posts or trees. Include perches.
  • Bluebirds are territorial, so space houses 100-200 feet apart.


These tiny acrobatic birds with big round heads and short tails flock to backyards all over North America. Chickadees nest in natural tree cavities and are eager adopters of birdhouses.

The Black-capped Chickadee and Carolina Chickadee species are common birds that use nest boxes. Offer chickadees a small box with an entrance hole 1 1/8 inches across. Place small birdhouses 6-15 feet above the ground near wooded areas chickadees inhabit.

Tips to attract chickadees:

  • Use nest boxes with small openings, as chickadees are tiny birds.
  • Place houses near trees and shrubs, as chickadees do not like to be out in the open.
  • Add boxes along the edge of wooded areas or where branches hang low.
  • Stuff a little nesting material like moss in the box to get the chickadees started.


These small, busy birds fill backyards with energetic activity and lively songs. Wrens nest in cavities and will readily use artificial nest boxes.

The Carolina Wren, Bewick’s Wren, and House Wren species commonly build their nests in birdhouses. To attract wrens, hang small boxes with 1-1 1/8 inch openings in sheltered spots near dense bushes or trellises overgrown with vines. Wrens prefer hidden, tucked away nesting spots.

Tips to attract wrens:

  • Use small nest boxes designed for wrens.
  • Tuck houses up under eaves, porches, or overhangs.
  • Place boxes 4-8 feet above ground near sheltered bushes and trees.
  • Add multiple houses, as wrens often build multiple nests.

Tree Swallows

Their shimmering feathers and aerial acrobatics make tree swallows a delight. These migrant birds arrive in spring to breed across the northern United States and Canada. Nest boxes are hugely attractive to tree swallows seeking a cavity to raise young.

Tips to attract tree swallows:

  • Place boxes in open fields near water.
  • Use a box with a 1 1/2 inch opening mounted 5-10 feet high.
  • Add rough wood shavings or straw as nest material.
  • Clean out old nests in fall after tree swallows leave.


Titmice are small gray and white songbirds common in woodlands across North America. Species like the Tufted Titmouse and Black-crested Titmouse nest in tree cavities and adapt well to birdhouses.

Tips to attract titmice:

  • Use birdhouses with 1 1/4 inch diameter entrance holes.
  • Look for titmouse-sized boxes about 5 inches deep and 4-6 inches wide.
  • Mount boxes 8-12 feet up on trees near woods.


Friendly nuthatches with bold black and white plumage nest in tree holes and will occupy nest boxes. The Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Pygmy Nuthatch species may visit birdhouses.

Tips to attract nuthatches:

  • Place nest boxes 8-20 feet up on mature trees near woods.
  • Use boxes with 1 1/8 – 1 1/4 inch openings.
  • Add boxes with rough interiors as nuthatches do not build nests.


While most woodpeckers nest in tree cavities they hammer out themselves, they may also inhabit ready-made nest boxes. Species like Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, and Northern Flickers might move into birdhouses.

Tips to attract woodpeckers:

  • Use larger nest boxes with 2-inch diameter openings.
  • Look for deeper boxes around 8 inches deep.
  • Mount boxes 10-20 feet up on trees near woods.
  • Put out suet feeders to draw woodpeckers.


Small insect-eating flycatchers that nest in cavities, like the Eastern Phoebe and Ash-throated Flycatcher, may occasionally accept birdhouses.

Tips to attract flycatchers:

  • Place boxes on open sheds, garages, or under roof eaves.
  • Use boxes with 2 inch openings and 6 inch depth.
  • Position boxes 6-12 feet above ground.


Ground-dwelling sparrows occasionally nest in the cavities of old trees and birdhouses. Species like song sparrows, house sparrows, grasshopper sparrows, chipping sparrows, and field sparrows might inhabit nest boxes.

Tips to attract sparrows:

  • Use boxes with 1-1 1/2 inch openings placed 4-5 feet above ground.
  • Locate boxes near grassy fields, meadows, or sparrow habitat.
  • Clean out old nests after each brood leaves the box.


Small owl species like screech owls, saw-whet owls, and pygmy owls nest in the holes of trees and will occasionally accept nest boxes.

Tips to attract small owls:

  • Use a box at least 8×8 inches wide and 12-18 inches tall.
  • The entrance hole should be 3-4 inches across.
  • Place boxes 10-30 feet high on tree trunks near woods.
  • Fill the box with a layer of wood chips or bark to mimic a natural hole.

Other Birds

Other birds that might occasionally use birdhouses include:

  • Kestrels
  • Swallows
  • Creepers
  • Starlings
  • Flycatchers
  • Wood Ducks
  • Buntings
  • Finches

With birdhouses customized to their needs, many cavity nesting species are potential tenants. Observe the birds in your area to see who might be open to accepting an artificial home.

Where to Place Birdhouses

Proper placement of birdhouses helps ensure they will safely shelter birds. Follow these tips when siting birdhouses:


As covered above, different birds prefer houses mounted at varying heights. Small birds usually nest closer to the ground while larger species inhabit higher boxes. Place boxes 4-8 feet high for small birds like chickadees, wrens, and titmice. For bluebirds, tree swallows, and some woodpeckers, site houses 8-12 feet up. Large birds like owls, kestrels, and wood ducks need boxes 10-30 feet above ground.


Choose locations that suit bird preferences and offer shelter. Bluebird houses work best in open grassy fields. For chickadees and titmice, go near woods and trees. Boxes for wrens belong tucked into bushes and vegetation. Near water is ideal for tree swallows and wood ducks.

Position houses with the entrance hole facing away from prevailing winds. Avoid facing the hole towards the afternoon sun which can overheat the interior.

Type of Support

You can mount birdhouses in many ways. Fence posts and metal poles designed for birdhouses work well. Existing trees are common supports. Also consider mounting boxes directly on buildings, sheds, or posts on a deck or patio.

For trees, select a mature, sturdy tree. Install a predator guard to keep unwanted climbers away. Make sure houses are firmly anchored.

Number of Houses

Because birds have territories and compete for cavities, you usually can’t group houses all in one spot. Space boxes out, mounting different ones in optimal habitat for various species. Having pairs of the same house increases chances of attracting birds who may use one for nesting and one for roosting.

DIY Birdhouse Design Considerations

Building your own custom birdhouses allows you to cater to the needs of desired species. These tips produce well-designed DIY birdhouses:

Wood Type

Use exterior grade, non-treated wood at least 3/4 inches thick so it holds up to weather. Avoid pressure treated lumber which contains toxic preservatives. Good woods are pine, cedar, redwood, cypress, and poplar.

Ventilation and Drainage

Drill ventilation holes near the top of the front and back panels. Add drainage holes or leave small gaps between pieces to let out moisture.

Entrance Hole

The diameter varies based on the bird. Adjustable openings allow you to shift hole size. Centers the entrance 2-6 inches above the box floor.

No Perch

Don’t add perches, as they offer a place for predators to wait. Birds can easily cling to the hole edge.

Deep Enough

Allow 4-6 inches of space below the entrance for nests. Deeper boxes accommodate larger birds.

Slope Roof

Sloped roofs shed rain better than flat tops. Overhangs above the entrance keep water out.

Hold Nesting Material

Rough up the interior wood for grip. Add shelves or blocks to hold nesting materials in place.

Predator Guards

Install metal predator guards or baffles on poles below the box to deter raccoons, cats, and snakes.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Regularly remove old nests to keep boxes sanitary. Check for damage and deteriorating wood. Clean and repair or replace boxes every few years.

When to Put Up Birdhouses

Most birds start scouting for nesting spots early in the spring. Having birdhouses up well before breeding season increases their appeal.

Here are some guidelines on the best time to make birdhouses available:

  • Early fall: Put up winter roost boxes birds can use for winter shelter and insulation.
  • Late winter: Mount boxes anytime from January through early March before spring migration.
  • Avoid nesting season: Don’t put up new houses during active breeding from April – July.
  • After young fledge: Establish new houses after the nesting season winds down in late summer.
  • Before winter weather: Take down any boxes that aren’t winter-resistant before snow and ice hit.

Check current boxes for needed refurbishing and repairs during late winter so they are ready for spring house hunting. Avoid disturbing active nests during breeding season.

How to Attract Birds to Nest Boxes

Follow some simple tips to make your birdhouses appealing places for birds to raise their families:

Good location

Choose suitable habitat birds naturally prefer – open fields, near water sources, areas with dense vegetation, etc.

Bird-friendly plants

Landscape with native plants and flowers that provide food sources to attract birds.

Water source

Add a birdbath, fountain, or small wildlife pond to provide fresh water.

Bird feeders

Supplement feeders with seeds, nuts, and suet favored by species you want to nest.

Nesting materials

Provide natural materials like pet fur, straw, moss, wool, or cotton balls in boxes.

Avoid disturbance

Prevent excess activity and noise around nesting sites.

Limit predators

Use guards to protect birds from cats, raccoons, snakes and other threats.

Natural finish

Use plain, unpainted wood or an earth-toned stain. Avoid bright colors.

Patiently wait

It may take weeks or longer for birds to find and accept new houses.

Maintaining Your Birdhouses

Regular maintenance keeps birdhouses safe and usable for years. Follow these steps:

Yearly Cleaning

  • After nesting season ends, clean out old nest material and debris wearing gloves.
  • Check interior and exterior for damage and do repairs.
  • Wash with mild soap and disinfectant. Rinse and allow to fully dry.

Check Condition

  • Watch for chewing damage, cracked wood, missing panels, loose screws, leaning poles, etc.
  • Replace old boxes or parts that are deteriorating.

Nesting Material

  • Add fresh bedding like straw or wood shavings in fall. Do not use synthetic materials, fabric, or feathers.

Predator Guards

  • Make sure baffles are intact and placing them out of reach of climbing predators.


  • Use caulk to seal any cracks that could let in water.
  • Stain or seal wood with non-toxic sealer to prevent rotting.

Monitor Activity

  • Keep an eye on active nests to make sure adult birds and young remain safe from threats.

With proper placement and care, birdhouses are a simple way to turn your backyard into a neighborhood for delightful songbirds. Watching the activity and antics of birds raising families in the cozy homes you provide is an enriching, rewarding experience. Do your part to support local bird populations and be rewarded with the splashes of color, song, and energy these special creatures bring.

FAQs About Attracting Birds to Nesting Boxes

Why are birdhouses helpful for birds?

Many bird species nest in tree cavities or old woodpecker holes naturally. But over development and forest clearance has reduced nesting sites. Artificial nest boxes supplement the limited natural options to give birds safe spaces to raise families.

What are the right dimensions for birdhouse entrances?

The diameter of the entrance hole is key. It must be sized correctly for the target bird species. General guidelines are:

  • 1 1/8″ – 1 1/4″ for chickadees, nuthatches, wrens
  • 1 1/2″ for bluebirds, tree swallows, sparrows
  • 2-3″ for woodpeckers, kestrels, owls

How can I stop birds fighting over the birdhouse?

Competition over nesting spots is common. Follow these tips to minimize conflicts:

  • Add more houses spaced well apart to provide options
  • Use multiple house designs suited for different species
  • Clean out old nests after young fledge so all birds start out on equal footing in spring

Where should I place birdhouses to keep predators away?

Site houses in open areas away from dense brush and low branches where predators lurk. Use metal predator guards on poles below the box. Face entrances away from prevailing winds. Mount boxes at heights specific to the desired species.

How often should I clean out my birdhouses?

Thoroughly clean all boxes out after the baby birds have left the nest each season. This helps prevent parasites and disease. Wear gloves and a mask when cleaning. Also do occasional spot checks for droppings, dead nestlings, or other problems during nesting season.

What time of year should I hang a birdhouse?

Most birds seek out nesting spots in late winter and very early spring. Have cleaned and repaired boxes up by February or March before breeding season gets underway. Avoid putting up new houses during active nesting from April-July.

Can I paint or decorate my birdhouses?

Plain, natural wood is best. Painted exteriors or decorative elements could scare off birds. If using color, stick to plain earth tones like brown, tan, grey or dull green. The entrance and interior should not be painted.

How can I get birds to start using my new birdhouses?

Be patient, it takes time for birds to find and accept new nesting boxes. Try offerings nesting materials inside, putting up houses before breeding season, using bird-friendly landscaping, and positioning boxes in optimal habitat to jump start activity.

Do I need to use predator guards with birdhouses?

Yes, predator guards are an important protective measure. Baffles, guards, and other deterrent devices placed below nest boxes help keep snakes, squirrels, raccoons, cats, and other climbing predators from raiding eggs and young.


Attracting feathered friends to inhabit backyard birdhouses provides endless enjoyment. Watching birds raise families and seeing new generations hatch brings immense rewards. Following the tips covered here will allow you to design and place nest boxes that perfectly suit the needs of desired species. Tailor and properly maintain houses to create a safe, welcoming bird real estate that local birds will be eager to occupy. Soon you’ll discover the delights of having lovely birds serenading you right outside your window as they flourish in their cozy birdhouse homes.