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Love isn't in the air; it's on the nest...already

Last modified: 14 February 2013

Nestbox on tree

nestbox

Image: Andy Hay

Garden birds are already looking ahead to spring despite the wintry weather - we've already received several reports of some very early nesting attempts.

Robins, blue tits and blackbirds are among the early breeding species that we've been told about.

Very early

Ian Hayward, RSPB Wildlife Adviser, says; “It’s very early for garden birds to be nesting but not impossible to believe, especially since we had a warmer spell of weather a few weekends ago. More commonly at this time of year people will become aware of male birds singing loudly and for longer in order to attract a mate, or birds that have already paired up will be checking out nestboxes and pecking around the entrance hole, which means they’re thinking of nesting there in the months to come.” 

We're urging people to get behind the British Trust for Ornithology’s 16th annual National Nestbox Week, which starts on Valentine’s Day.  It’s a good time to put up a nestbox or ensure that existing nestboxes are secure and well-positioned ready to welcome a courting couple.

Ian continues; “Natural nesting sites for birds are not that easy to come across; we are perhaps too quick to clear away dead wood and trees in our gardens, leaving birds short of suitable homes.  Putting up nestboxes to give nature a home in your garden is a real help.”

Different sizes

The types of birds that are attracted to a nestbox will depend on where the box is positioned and the size of the entrance hole. 

Ian says; “Blue tits will choose a tiny entrance hole – around 25mm across – which means they don’t have to compete with bigger birds wanting to nest there. Blue tits also like to be able to see everything around them when they stick their head out of the hole, so a good spot for a blue tit box is on an exposed wall facing north or east.

“Robins on the other hand prefer boxes that are around a third of the way open at the front. This doesn’t give much protection from predators or the elements and therefore it needs to be tucked away in a sheltered and safe spot.”

Make a nestbox

As it is half term in many places this week, building a homemade nestbox is a simple, free, family activity and a great way to help children connect with nature. There are downloadable advice sheets and tips on positioning a nestbox at www.rspb.org.uk/advice and there’s still time to submit Big Garden Birdwatch results before the deadline on Friday 15 February, www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

Find out more about National Nestbox Week at www.bto.org

How you can help

Tell us about your garden and we’ll provide you with tailored wildlife-gardening advice!

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