After surviving those cold, dark winter months, there is nothing quite like seeing the first signs of spring. It’s like mother nature is slowly waking up from her winter slumber as we start to see the blossoms popping up on trees, the grass getting greener, and birds getting their nests and homes ready for their little chicks.
It can be a real treat to watch these birds busily work throughout the day, collecting items here and there to bring back to the cozy little places they will call home. One of the easiest ways to do this is to build (or buy) and hang up a birdhouse in your yard. But, before you run out and pick a random tree to place your birdhouse in, did you know there are some guidelines you should follow to make sure you’ve chosen the best spot and that there’s even an ideal time and direction to place them? Lucky for you, we’ve got some great tips and info to help you out.
When to Place Birdhouses
I bet you think the best time to place a birdhouse is in the early Spring-because that’s when they’re building their nests, right? Well, it’s actually not. The ideal time to place your birdhouse outside is in the fall or winter so that the birds have enough time to locate them before their breeding season begins. You should also clean out any old nesting materials from current birdhouses so that they’re ready and available for their springtime residents.
Now, when early spring rolls around, you can start to place nesting materials like dryer lint, strands of thread, pet hair, etc., out near birdbaths and feeders. Try to keep them away from the area that you’re placing your birdhouse; otherwise, it might give away the location to predator-type birds, and we do not want that.
How to Place Birdhouses
Okay, so it’s fall or winter, and you’re ready to go out and place your birdhouse. Before you do, let’s make sure you know how to do that.
First, make sure that you’re positioning the birdhouse at least five feet off the ground. It’s also important to remember that most birds will want some privacy during their nesting time and the ability to protect their newborns from any predators. Therefore, try not to put the birdhouse near any birdbaths, feeders, or anything that will attract other birds near the area. The only exception to this rule is that if you’re trying to attract swallows, flycatchers, or bluebirds, they prefer to have an open, exposed location.
The next thing to consider is the amount of foliage that’s surrounding the birdhouse. While it’s not a requirement, the extra foliage does help provide shade from the afternoon heat and a bit more camouflage. This can help the birds feel more comfortable. This, combined with a birdhouse that has good ventilation, helps provide an ideal spot.
What direction should a birdhouse face?
Not many people take the direction a birdhouse should face into consideration, but they should! When it comes to the ideal placement, one of the first things to consider is the cardinal direction it is facing. So, ideally, you should position the birdhouse as much northeast as you possibly can. This will help place it in the opposite direction from any prevailing winds and rains.
Another thing to consider would be facing the opening towards a tree or shrubs. Why? This helps allow birds to have hunting grounds nearby, and it also helps to give the chicks a soft landing spot when they take their first flight away from the nest.
Interestingly, there was a study performed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology regarding which direction is best for a birdhouse. Citizens across the U.S. participated and sent in the information they collected by what they had observed, and it showed that in more northern states, Eastern bluebirds preferred a birdhouse facing the east. Why? Well, scientists at Cornell believe it is because the sun rises in the east. With the birdhouse facing the sun as it rises, this helps introduce warmth early on in the day, which proved beneficial on those somewhat chilly nights that can occur in those more northern states. This brings us to the next point as to why birdhouses facing east are helpful; the sunrise provides warmth after losing all that heat overnight that was attained during the day.
One more thing you should consider regarding the direction of the birdhouse is to make sure it is not facing any bird feeders or birdbaths. The amount of activity that occurs during the day with all the different birds (and even squirrels, deer, etc.) visiting those locations can stress out the house’s occupants, especially when they have young ones they are trying to protect.
More instructions for placing the birdhouse correctly
- A birdhouse should face south to maximize the sun’s warmth
- A birdhouse should be placed in a tree at least 10 feet from the ground for protection
- Don’t place a birdhouse near power lines, where it will likely become an electrical hazard
- Never place a birdhouse on top of your roof – birds are sensitive to heat and cold and can die this way
- Place two or more houses together for better protection against predators like cats, raccoons, hawks, owls, etc…
- Place food inside the house to attract birds and keep them coming back all year long!
- Birds prefer to build nests in trees that are close to water
- Birds need a place to rest during the day and night, so they will be attracted by your birdhouse if it faces east or west
- If you live in an area with lots of trees, try hanging your birdhouse on one of them!
- It’s important for birds to have a place where they can feel safe from predators like hawks and cats – make sure there is plenty of space around the entrance hole on the front panel
- When choosing between two possible locations for your birdhouse, always consider wind patterns because birds don’t want their homes destroyed by gusts of wind
- Always remember to clean out your new home after installing it! You’ll attract more birds if you keep it fresh and inviting
If you’re a birdwatcher, or even just someone who enjoys having a variety of different birds in your yard and loves the sound of those little chicks chirping and peeping, placing birdhouses is something to add to your fall and winter “To-Do” list.
And, before you go getting all fancy with bright colors, perches, and unnecessary decorations, try to keep in mind that birds will most likely avoid anything that will attract attention, especially regarding predators. The best birdhouse is going to be made of wood that is natural and unpainted. If you want to, you can stain the outside with something like linseed oil. The natural wood is porous and helps decrease the amount of moisture and heat that accumulates inside during the warmer months. Do not use or buy plastic or metal birdhouses because they trap heat inside and can hurt the birds.
When it comes to birdhouses, simple is best, and a northeast or east-facing birdhouse is more likely to bring birds into your yard in the spring. Following these tips and guidelines will guarantee your backyard birds have a safe, calm spot to take care of their young for many seasons to come.