Birds love bird houses.
They’ll happily make a nest out in the bush somewhere but birds aren’t stupid; given the choice, they’ll pick a nice, clean, sheltered, dry and secure home any day of the week. So here are a few tips on where and how to place your bird house to make it attractive for a range of bird species.
The first consideration when buying a bird house is size; obviously if you want to attract larger birds the house must be larger and small birds prefer a nice, snug little house. Once you have made your decision then the next most important consideration is how the house is to be mounted.
Some birds don’t mind if the house swings around a bit but most will opt for a stable platform if given a choice. It may sound like the hanging style houses are not that great but they do have some important benefits. They isolate the birds from predators better than any other (more on that later) and, because they are usually hung in trees, they provide valuable shade in hot weather and some protection from rain and wind. Ultimately birds nest in a place that is going to be best for their babies so a hanging house may be the better option in many gardens.
Fixing the house to the top of a mounting post or attaching to a wall or tree will make it more stable – no question. The only caveat to that is the mounting post needs to be reasonably solid for the size of the house; with a small house you can get away with a 25mm hollow metal tube (available at any decent hardware store). Large houses and dovecotes may need large cross-section treated pine; something like 70x45mm up to 90x90mm.
Attaching the house or dovecote directly to a wall or tree trunk is, in many respects, the best option all round. A wall is quite hard for predators to climb and if the wall faces the right direction it can provide some protection from heat or rain.
Predators and Pests:
There are three main predators (or pests) that threaten our birds: foxes, cats and rats. OK, there are some native predators as well but the biggest problems you’re likely to face in your garden are one of those three. Foxes are not a big issue for the types of birds using our houses; once the house is elevated and there are no ‘steps’ to get to the birds they are pretty safe from foxes.
Cats and rats are a big problem but there are a few things we can do to mitigate the menace of these rascals eating our little feathered friends. Cats can free jump about 5 times their length; to put a bird house high enough to prevent cats reaching them is not really an option. Our houses though are cleverly designed to make life difficult for the wily cat: if the house is a hanging version cats find these very frustrating as they can’t jump to a hanging house if there is no ‘ledge’ for them to land on. Sure they can climb onto a branch but they still have to be able to reach down to the house – very tricky. Rats also don’t like this; they are amazing climbers but they can only climb something they can grip with their sharp, little claws and they can’t get a grip on a steel hanger.
Posts made of timber are an issue as cats and rats can climb very well indeed. Our bird houses only have small ‘verandahs’ which makes life difficult for the cat; rats though are fine with that. If rats are an issue then simply wrap some smooth steel or plastic round the post – problem solved. If the post is tubular steel then there is no issue with either cats or rats.
Wall mounts and tree trunks are pretty good at stopping cats but rats can climb a vertical rough timber wall – again, they hate smooth surfaces so, if rats are a problem, surround the house with some smooth steel or plastic.
Sun and Wind and Rain:
The best strategy is to try and find a spot in your garden that has some shelter; ideally among some bushes or trees. Summer in Australia can get hot so it is important that the bird house has some shade from direct sunlight or is not in a north facing position. For example, to mount on a south facing wall will give plenty of protection from direct sun but also consider exposure to rain and wind.
Placing the house among some bush can also give protection from heavy rain and wind. If in an area prone to a lot of rain then it might be worth considering putting the house under some sort of cover. Keep in mind that birds do like their privacy and don’t like too much activity round them; so if putting under cover try to keep them as separate as possible.
Some of the houses and all the dovecotes have multiple nesting chambers; great for some birds but not so great for others. Generally they will like their own space (a bit like humans really); this is not all bad though, having more than one option of nesting places means there is a lot higher chance of birds using the house as they will often choose one of the chambers.
We hope this is of some help with the positioning of your house; we are not bird experts but if you are having issues we do know a few local legends that we can ask for advice – so feel free to contact us.