20 February 2020

It's National Nest Box Week!

It is National Nest Box Week (NNBW) this week and our wild birds are starting to think about the coming breeding season. This year is the 20th year of NNBW, which aims to encourage everyone to put up nest boxes for birds and to raise awareness of their needs ahead of the breeding season. While our migratory birds are preparing for their journeys back to Britain and Ireland for the summer, lots of our resident species are already singing to affirm their territory, finding a mate and choosing a nest site.

Tiny Blue Tit chicks thinking food has just arrived. Photo by Lee Barber

Around half of all households feed birds, so while food can often be plentiful, the lack of suitable nesting sites can be a problem. Putting up a nest box can therefore provide a welcome boost for some species. Blue and Great Tit are the most-frequent users of nest boxes but there is an amazing variety of species that use boxes, and by providing a suitable box, you could encourage them to set up home in your garden. House Sparrow, Nuthatch, Starling, Swift, Stock Dove, Tawny Owl and Kestrel are among the species that need suitable nesting sites and providing a box could really help them and some of our other declining red or amber listed species. For more information on what boxes are suitable for which species, click here.

Tawny Owl chicks waiting for the next delivery of food. Photo by Lee Barber

When buying a nest box, one of the most important features that I look for is a removable lid. This aids cleaning the box at the end of the breeding season (cleaning can be done between 1st September - 31st January) but most importantly it means that the contents of the nest can be recorded. BTO volunteer Nest Recorders around Britain and Ireland record the number of eggs, fledglings and the outcome of nesting attempts, providing a wealth of information on how our wild birds are doing every year. Nest recorders are provided with a code of conduct to make sure that the nest is checked in the safest possible way, so valuable information is gathered without affecting the birds.

BTO nest recorder checking on a Blackbird nest. Photo by Lee Barber

Nest cameras are a very popular choice and this also means that you can record the contents without even leaving your living room. They are particularly useful for boxes which are usually placed quite high or are difficult to get to, like Tawny Owl and Swift.

So far this year we've only seen a few birds inspecting our boxes at BTO HQ in Norfolk. Nest recording isn't just about those species that use boxes though; there are already a few Collared Doves sitting on eggs and we've also seen a brood of Egyptian Goose goslings paddling up the river. It's only a matter of time before we find our first Blackbird nest of the year and then the tit species will start building. It's a very exciting time!

Egyptian Geese are one of the earliest breeders. Photo by Lee Barber

For more information on becoming a nest recorder, check out our Nest Record Scheme website.

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