Create a sparrow street

Activity
3-4 hours
Autumn Winter
Advanced

Introduce a nest box or two and give house sparrows somewhere to colonise and raise their chicks. House sparrows are in trouble – the UK population has halved for reasons that we don't fully understand. However, there are definitely things you can do to help, and a good start is to put up a nest box or two on your house walls. You can build your own sparrow box, or if you’re short on time or DIY skills you can buy a classic nest box.

Step-by-step guide

house sparrow perched on branch | The RSPB

house-sparrow.jpg

1

Find a suitable place for your nest box.

Ideally, it will be under the eaves of your house or high on a wall. Make sure you permission before attaching a box.

The box will need to be at least 3m (10 feet) from the ground, facing north or east to avoid it getting too hot or wet. Avoid placing it in direct sunlight and don't put it over a doorway or well-used path.

2

Make sure you have the right wood.

The thickness is important to insulate the box from cold and heat and to stop the box warping). You can use exterior-quality plywood (for a light box) or, for something more sturdy, hardwoods (such as oak and beech) or soft wood (such as pine, but this will deteriorate more quickly). Buy timber approved by the Forest Stewardship Council – look for the FSC logo.

3

Measure and cut your wood according to the diagram.

Note: the dimensions shown are for 15mm thick wood. If your wood is different to that, the dimensions of the Base should be 150mm by 150mm minus 2 x thickness of the wood, eg if the wood is 18mm thick, the base should be 150mm x 114mm.

If you don't have the special drill bit for making the 3.2cm round hole, you can use a jigsaw to cut a square or wedge-shaped hole at the top of the front, as in the diagram.

4

Nail all the pieces, except the roof, together.

The sides, back and front 'wrap around' the base.

5

Attach the roof.

By using screws, you’ll be able to get into the box at a later stage to clean it out. Use a waterproof strip to make a hinge between the top edge of the roof and the backing board.

Try a piece of bicycle tyre inner tube, damp-proof membrane or roofing felt.

6

Put your box up.

Drill guide holes in the backing plate at the top and bottom of the box. Taking care, fix the box to a wall using a ladder, screws, Rawlplugs and a spirit level. Be sure to check the box is the right way up!

7

What to look for.

Sparrows will start house hunting in spring. There is never a guarantee of using your box, but if you're lucky you should see the males proudly chirping from nearby, or even from the roof of the box. Sparrows are sensitive to disturbance at the nest and protected by law. So watch and enjoy from a distance. You may be lucky to see them raising several broods in there in a season.

What you will need

  • A plank of FSC wood (not tanilised) 15cm x 1.4m long x 1.5-1.8cm thick and not pressure treated
  • Pencil and tape measure
  • Saw
  • Nails
  • Strip of waterproof rubber
  • Drill