Nest Boxes and Bird Feeders for the Garden

#BigGardenBirdWatch – My survey results.

Looking out of my potting shed window, I can see plenty of pigeons and a few robins. But where have all the song birds gone? Last weekend I took part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, and I was shocked by the results. Hardly any birds in my garden.

The Big Garden Birdwatch is in its 40th year, starting out in 1979. Over half a million people take part; it’s the world’s largest garden wildlife survey. But what it has shown over the years is a downward trend, a drastic decline in the number of thrushes, starlings and sparrows.

Results show:

  • Song thrushes down 75 percent
  • Starlings down 80 percent
  • Blackbirds down 41 percent
  • House sparrows down 57 percent
  • Greenfinches down 57 percent
  • Robins down 31 percent

Birds on the increase are

  • Wood pigeons up 950 percent
  • Collard doves up 307 percent.

In my one hour survey I spotted:

1 great tit

3 blackbirds

2 robins

1 wren

1 pheasant

1 chaffinch

5 pigeons

It’s about five years since we heard the tap- tapping of a song thrush breaking open a snail shell on the garden path. And I can’t remember the last time we spotted a sparrow. It must be 10 years at least.

So, with plummeting numbers, what can we do to help. One positive action is to put up a nest box. Loss of habitat might be a factor in the decline of the sparrow. We are all keeping our homes in better repair, meaning there are fewer gaps under the tiles where sparrows like to nest.

I asked Shropshire company CJ Wildlife for advice on buying and siting a nest box and here’s some hints and tips I’ve gathered.

Each bird has its preference for a particular nest box. The entrance opening is a determining factor.

  • 28mm hole- suitable for blue tit, coal, great, crested, marsh and willow tits, pied flycatcher and tree sparrow
  • 32mm – house sparrow, tree sparrow, great tit, crested tit, nuthatch
  • Oval entrance hole – house sparrow, nuthatch and redstart.
  • Open fronted box- well hidden in foliage- robin, wren, spotted flycatcher, redstart, black redstart, pied and grey wagtail, song birds.

Buying a bird box

  • Choose one made from high quality wood, up to 18mm thick, for insulation.
  • Look for an FSC label – certified products contain wood in accordance with Forest Stewardship Council regulations. The council promotes responsible forest management
  • Birds will often return year after year to the same box, choose one that is going to last. WoodStone is a mix of wood and concrete which has good insulating properties and a long life. A 10 year guarantee is given.
  • Metal or some ceramic nests might not be suitable, as they could have low insulation properties.
  • The best bird boxes come with a metal plate protecting the entrance hole from predators. These plates can also be purchased for a few pounds to protect existing boxes that don’t have this feature.

Maintenance of bird boxes

Bird boxes should be emptied every year between the end of October and January 31st. This will help to prevent parasites building up. Wear gloves and a dust mask. Wash the bird box in hot soapy water, or use bird-safe cleaners. Leave to dry for a few days in a garage or shed, and return the bird box to its original position.

Bird boxes can be painted, outside only, with non-toxic water- based paint.

Siting a bird box

  • Chose a north or east- facing position, as bright sunshine will overheat and possibly kill young birds
  • If mounting bird box on a tree, use the dry side and avoid the side where water rushes down in heavy rainfall.
  • Choose a secluded place, away from patios and barbecues
  • Site near vegetation so that young birds making their first flight will have some cover
  • Protect open nest boxes with thorny vegetation around them
  • The best height for bird boxes is between 1.5m and 5.5m
  • A clear flight path into the box is needed
  • Avoid sites such as the top of a fence, where predators can easily access the bird box.

In my garden, I’ve started off with boxes for robins, sparrows and great tits. And I’m hoping to attract a nuthatch or two. I’ll keep you posted on how I get on. I’m saving up for one that has a camera inside. I’d love to watch nesting birds in action.

Many thanks to CJ Wildlife for supplying bird food, and feeders, which I’ll talk about next time, and substantial, high quality nest boxes. I’m looking forward to attracting more birds to my plot, and doing my bit towards reversing the downward trend in garden bird numbers.

Here are some links you might find useful.


Woodland Trust

CJ Wildlife

CJ Wildlife nest boxes

Big Garden Birdwatch



Please leave a comment below to be included in a prize draw for a Jupiter feeder and 1k suet pack, currently on sale for £18.99. Names will be randomly selected and there’s no cash alternative. Sorry, UK entries only. CJ Wildlife decision is final.

Photos of birds credit :CJ Wildlife.

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #BigGardenBirdWatch and #Winterwatch on social media to share your findings and stories from your weekend survey. And please feel free to share this blog piece on any social media platform. It all helps. Thank you.

45 thoughts on “Nest Boxes and Bird Feeders for the Garden

  1. Pingback: January in the Garden | Bramble Garden

  2. Pingback: Announcing my prize draw winner. CJ Wildlife bird feeder. | Bramble Garden

  3. Thank you – we have a little best box in our shed that a wren kitted out with moss, but it was never used. I’ve been meaning to look up whether I should remove the moss or whether I should leave it for them for this year, and your post has answered my question.

    My mum didn’t have a single bird in her garden during her bird watch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading. I didn’t know what to do with my bird boxes either until the RSPB helped me and also information from CJ Wildlife. I’ve now gone round and emptied all the boxes and put a small amount of fresh hay in the ones where the wrens were roosting. I didn’t have a single bird for the first two days of the survey due to very high winds and rain. Thanks again. Are you in the uk ?

      Liked by 1 person

      • The weather that weekend really wasn’t favourable was it. We had a moorhen make an appearance for our bird watch. He likes to climb our apple tree to reach the bird feeder!
        Yes, I’m in the UK.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I would love to see that moorhen. Our first house had a river at the end of the garden and came with a nest of ducks and several moorhens. The ducklings were so tame they used to walk in and out of the back door. I once opened a bottom kitchen cupboard, and one popped out! Happy memories of our first home. xx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Now that sounds idyllic. I can only dream about ducklings popping out of our cupboards! We have a friendly mallard hen who pops in to visit us ever spring to have a break from the harassment of the mating season. She brings her ducklings to visit too, but they’re not tame – she does come in and steal the cat’s food though! I have a photo and little video clip of the moorhen, who we’ve named Harold, on my Instagram feed. I don’t think I can post the photo in this comment section to show you so I’ll give you my IG address. We actually have three moorhen neighbours and they sometimes form an orderly queue in the tree to await their turn at the feeder!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I stopped feeding the birds last year because next door’s cats were always patrolling the feeder. I know a lot of garden bloggers are fond of them but they kill about 55 million birds a year in the UK. Thankfully the neighbours have moved, so this year I can feed the birds again. The numbers seem down but at least I have plenty of house sparrows.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think water is very important. It is not just for drinking. Even in winter they need water to clean and groom their feathers to keep up the essential insulation. I have several “baths” and I find the most popular is a rectangular dish that is really a “saucer” for putting rectangular flower pots on top of on patios. Amelia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Amelia. You are right. Even a shallow dish is important. I have lots around the garden and spent some time this morning unfreezing them all. I was rewarded by having the company of a pheasant for most of the day. It’s been really perishing cold here today. I felt really sorry for any creature outdoors in this weather. There’s a wren in the poly tunnel, and greenhouse, and a robin in the potting shed sheltering from the cold.


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  7. My work colleague was recommending CJ Wildlife to me only yesterday as we were fixing a bird feeder and nest box at a client’s garden and I was encouraging him to start feeding the birds in his own garden. He’s recently moved into a new housing estate that was once a field (😔) and says there are hardly any birds – apart from one hungry looking blackbird – as there’s no mature cover for them, whereas in his previous garden he had loads. I reckoned if he put some food out, they would come. So he texted me last night to say he’s ordered bird food and feeders from CJ Wildlife; result!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sophie. I’ve just put in a huge order for feeders and feed. We live a mile from the village and our garden is completely surrounded by fields of wheat, oats, oil seed. The farmer leaves a wildlife margin, which helps. But acres and acres of one crop cant possibly be of any use to the birds. Talking to people in the village, their bird figures are much better than mine. Just goes to show the value of back gardens to our birds. I’m on to it! Thanks again for reading.


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  9. We live in rural North Yorkshire, where blackbirds and even song thrushes seem to be doing alright – though not sparrows. The starling murmurations are something to behold: we even had one last year in our garden:, Greenfinches and robins also appear: though I’m not sure to what extent the numbers are holding up. On a different note. Herons are DEFINITELY doing alright.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, herons! We’ve got one visit going our pond, although he’s had all the fish. He still comes on the off chance he might have missed something. I saw a starling murmuration over mum’s house last week, but not as many birds as you. Yours is spectacular. Thanks for getting in touch. Karen

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: 10 highlights from the grow your own blogs: January 2019 – Sharpen your Spades

    • It’s very frosty here today -4C so there are a few more birds than usual. There’s robin and pheasant on the ground under the bird feeders, and great tits on the hanging feeders. I’ve put in a huge order for food at CJ Wildlife, now I know I need to step up my feeding regime. I nonchalantly always assumed they would get enough from the hedgerows and garden. But that’s obviously not the case here.


      • Things have picked up already! Today we saw lots more blackbirds and some chaffinches. It’s very frozen over here, so they are attracted to the new feeders. I’m putting out lots of fresh water for them. I feel a bit happier about them today. The pheasant is a very fine male with gorgeous colourful plumage ( I nearly said foliage!) xx


      • I would have understood if you had written foliage for the pheasant’s appearance. It’s too cold to put water outside here. I once knew people who had a birdbath heater. There are two little streams running near our house, so I know fresh water is available for the birds.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m running back and forth with the kettle to thaw out the water troughs. The pond is frozen solid. I’m searching for an extra thick pair of socks. I’m not a hardy soul at all. Happy Friday Anne. xx


  11. I have put more nest boxes up this winter, finding a safe place for them is difficult, we have many cats visit the garden, two years ago one killed a family of baby robins. I feed the birds all year, with lots of different visitors, you can read about it at ‘wildlife’ on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Don’t forget that the presence of birds of prey will deter other birds. We had a pretty typical selection here in our count – I really need to keep our records from year to year, which I haven’t done up to now. We don’t often see thrushes in our garden but we do have several blackbirds and lots of house sparrows, plus visits from flocks of starling in the summer and rather too many collared doves! So they are not in decline here

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m going to keep records from year to year now. I couldn’t find last year’s figures, but I’m sure we had more birds. The weather might have been a factor. It’s been really cold, windy and wet. Birds just seemed to stay hidden. Maybe the buzzards flying over head didn’t help either. Thanks for reading, Cathy.


  13. Karen figures obtained in the Big Bird Birdwatch are horrible because of the number of bird populations that have fallen drastically. Only two species of Doves have climbed. However, I am lucky enough to enjoy in my country house an endless number of different birdsongs from before the sun goes down until it sets, even at night. The more wild the garden is, the more birds sing and come. There is a shameless Blackbird that comes midmorning and hits the ground with its beak, listens and almost always takes out an earthworm to eat it. He does not care if you are in the garden walking, even when my beloved dog Anton lived the last year, he walked around him. However in Madrid things are totally opposite. My zone is invaded by foreign birds: Parakeets of Argentina that have removed the food to the local birds that abounded and there is no more than a dove. Five years ago it was full of Blackbirds, Sparrows, Magpies, White Wagtail and some Hoopoe. My Mother and I fed the Sparrows, they are very nice and they immediately take confidence. We put on the railing of the terrace a large feeder with special grain for them, another with fresh water and a large bowl and deep plastic garden to bathe. After returning from the country house in mid-October every year there was less. Until in the last two years they have totally disappeared and there is only one Dove left. It is a pity. In Barcelona, ​​the same thing happened with the Parrots of Argentina and they were hunted. Here they have to do the same. Karen apologizes that I have extended so much with the birds but I love them. Many thanks for all the instructions to place the nests (I have two but I did not know where to put them). Thanks for all the information about the nests and for putting the links, I have entered all and they have served me a lot. Karen to your Mother, love and memories from me. To your family love and health. To you, love, health, strength and rest. Take care. Very loving greetings from Margarita.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Margarita. It’s really interesting to hear your story regarding your birds. What a shame there are less now. We both share a love of wildlife and we both seem to be doing what we can to help them. So sorry to hear about your poor dog Anton. As you know, we had a golden retriever, Arnie, and he died two years ago. Much missed. Thanks again. Loving greetings in return. Best wishes from karen xx


  14. A most enjoyable, and informative, post and lovely pictures. I’ve been doing the Birdwatch for years and nearly always see less birds than I normally do. Sadly I’ve never seen a nuthatch.
    Please don’t include me in the prize draw. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Yes, numbers of some birds are worrying, but others seem to be doing fine here. A friend came yesterday and was amazed at the sheer numbers of birds coming to the feeders and also the number of different species. My numbers for the survey were almost identical to last year, but only 1 greenfinch, no sparrows or starlings unfortunately.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No starlings here either. We did see a flock of about 100 redwings, but they flew right over the garden and didn’t come down, so couldn’t be counted. I’m hoping things will improve with my new feeding regime. I’m looking forward to seeing more birds in my garden. Thanks for reading.


  16. Habitat is everything. When we first moved to our current home, the hedges were all quite new and not thick as I think the birds like. As the trees and shrubs I planted have grown so too has the number of different birds that now seem to use the garden as a base. They take a while to get used to food sources they aren’t familiar with; my crab apple has hardly ever had any apples taken, then a few last year and then this year they have nearly all gone. I’m glad that the birds are finding good things to eat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Christina. I assumed the birds would have enough natural food here. We have huge hawthorn hedges dripping with rosehips, and crab apple trees. And we always leave perennials standing over winter for their seed heads. However, the birds seem to need high energy nuts and seeds to survive the winter. So I’ve started with sunflower hearts and special bird peanut butter feeds. We’ll see how it goes. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: Nest Boxes and Bird Feeders for the Garden — Bramble Garden – Wellness & Beauty Marketing

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