Create a cosy starling home
Put up a starling nest box in your garden and give them a safe home where they can roost and raise their chicks. Our starling populations have plummeted by about two-thirds since the 1970s. The good news is that they readily take to new nest boxes we put up. You can put up a starling box whenever you like, but early spring is ideal as nesting season can start as early as mid-March. Watch them taking in twigs and straw while nest building. And then listen for the loud chicks once they hatch, clamouring for attention as their parents bring in food! If you don’t have time or the DIY skills, why not buy a box or two (starlings like having neighbours).
Find a suitable place for your nestbox.
It will need to be under the eaves of your house or on a mature tree. For trees, use stainless steel or galvanised nails or screws. Make sure you have permission before erecting any box on a property.
The box should be at least 3m (10 feet) from the ground, facing north or east to avoid it getting too hot or wet. It needs to be out of direct sunlight, and ideally not over a doorway, window or well-used path.
Make sure you have the right wood.
The thickness is important to insulate the box from cold and heat and to stop the box from warping. You can use exterior-quality plywood (for a lightbox) or, for something more durable, hardwoods (such as oak and beech) or softwood (such as pine, but this will deteriorate more quickly). Buy timber approved by the Forest Stewardship Council – look for the FSC logo – that has not been pressure treated.
Measure and cut your wood.
Mark and saw your plank according to the diagram. Remember to drill some holes in the bottom for drainage.
If you don't have the special drill bit for making a 4.5cm round hole, you can use a jigsaw to cut a square or wedge-shaped hole at the top of the front.
Note: the dimensions shown are for 15mm thick wood. If your wood is different to that, the dimensions of the Base should be 180mm by 180mm minus 2 x thickness, e.g. if the wood is 18mm thick, the base should be 180mm x 144mm.
Nail all the pieces, except the roof, together.
The sides, back and front 'wrap around' the base.
Attach the roof.
It’s best to use screws rather than nails so you can get into the box at a later stage to clean it out. Use a waterproof strip to make a hinge along the top edge,
such as a piece of bicycle tyre inner tube, damp-proof membrane or roofing felt. Drill guide holes at the top and bottom of the box's backing plate. This is where you’ll screw the box to its final home.
Put your box up.
If fixing it to a wall, use screws and Rawlplugs. If fixing to a tree, use adjustable ties so you don’t harm the tree, like thick fencing wire threaded through a strip of hosepipe, with the bare ends twisted together at the back. As the tree grows you can adjust the wire. If you don't have wire and pipe, you can use timberfix bolts screwed into the tree.
Once the box is up, watch in spring for a pair coming to claim their new home.
They will take in twigs and straw and then things may go quiet during incubation. However, once the chicks have hatched, you'll hear the chicks clamouring for attention as their parents bring in food! While it is tempting to take a peek into your newly-built nestbox, birds don't like disturbance and are protected by law when they’re raising a family. So just sit back and enjoy from a distance.