Building Songbird Boxes
Building songbird boxes is a simple, inexpensive way to attract songbirds to
your property. This fact sheet discusses how to build, install, and maintain
nest boxes successfully.
Why Build Songbird Boxes?
Properly constructed nest boxes can provide shelter in those areas negatively
affected by urbanization and intensive management. By building boxes, you can
insure the songbirds on your land a place to nest.
Before You Begin...
Bird species have different habitat needs. To be successful, you must first
choose the species you want to attract and understand its food, water, and space
requirements. Use the table on page 2 to find the proper dimensions of the nest
box for the birds you want to attract. By simply changing dimensions and
entrance hole sizes, you can furnish cool, dry, durable, easily-cleaned boxes
for any of the small to medium-sized bird species in the table.
Figure 1. Nest box dimensions for assorted bird species.
Materials for Songbird Boxes
- Tape measure
- 1 1/2" to 1 3/4" galvanized nails
- Pencil or chalk for marking
- Stepladder or extension ladder
- 3" galvanized nails, lag bolts, or crimped wire
- Sheet metal for predator guard
Figure 2. Examples of predator guards.
Helpful Construction Hints
- Boxes need at least four 1/4" holes in the bottom to allow water to drain.
Several 1/4" holes in the sides will provide adequate ventilation.
- Use durable woods such as cedar, cypress, and pressure-treated pine.
- Allow for the width of the sawblade when marking and cutting a board.
- When using hardwood lumber, drill starter holes for the nails to avoid
- Avoid painting boxes or treating wood with a preservative. These boxes may
absorb too much heat or give off toxic vapors.
- Hinge the roof or use a pivot nail on one side of the box to make periodic
Figure 3. Cut-out diagram of songbird box.
Installation and Maintenance Tips
- Install all boxes by late March or early April.
- Place the boxes 200 to 300 feet apart to account for the territorial
nature of most species.
- Firmly attach boxes to posts, trees, or buildings. On live trees, use
crimped wire or lag bolts that can be loosened as the tree grows.
- Place boxes where they'll receive some shade during the day. In pasture
situations, place the box across the fence from nosy livestock!
- Clean out all boxes each year after the young have fledged.
- Inspect boxes regularly and consider adding predator guards if necessary.
- Always work in teams when using folding or extension ladders!
Figure 4. Placement of songbird boxes.