Bird houses are a fantastic way to add shelter to a bird-friendly backyard, but if no birds are nesting in the houses, why not? There can be a wide range of problems and difficulties with bird houses, but there are also easy ways to fix each problem to make the houses more attractive to nesting birds. If birds aren’t using your bird houses, check these common problems and solutions to be a better bird landlord.
1. No birds at all even look at the bird houses in my yard.
It may be that there are no cavity-nesting birds in your backyard. Only certain species of birds will use houses, and if you know which birds those are, you can add feeders, water features and shelter to make the yard more attractive to those birds, which will in turn attract them to the bird houses.
Learn More: Birds That Use Bird Houses
2. Birds build their nests before my bird houses are ready.
If you’re waiting until spring flowers bloom to put up bird houses, it may be too late, though early-nesting birds may investigate the house for additional broods later in the season. Putting houses up earlier can help attract the earliest nesting species and ensure the houses are ready for residents.
Learn More: When Is the Best Time to Put Up Bird Houses?
3. Birds never stay near the bird house and nest elsewhere instead.
Some bird species can be very particular about their preferred houses, including floor dimensions, house shape and other details. Finding bird houses that are specially designed for the species you want nesting nearby is the best option for meeting their needs with an appropriate house.
Learn More: Free Bird House Plans
4. Birds nesting build their nests lower than where my bird house is located.
Where you mount a bird house is just as critical as the size and shape of the house itself. Birds nest at different heights and have different preferences for whether the house is mounted on a pole or tree, or if it can be hung. Understanding birds’ preferences can help you position your bird houses properly.
Learn More: Mounting a Bird House
5. I leave the old nest in the house for birds to reuse, but they never do.
Most nesting songbirds will not reuse old nests, though they may reuse a small amount of the nesting material to build a fresh nest. The best option is to clean out bird houses after every brood has fledged so the house is clean and clear for another pair of nesting birds to use.
Learn More: How to Clean a Bird House
6. My bird house is threatened by cats, mice and other invaders.
Birds always look for a safe location to raise their nestlings, and adding safety features such as baffles or guards to a bird house will help protect the brooding birds. Perches should be removed from each house, and the house design should include drainage and ventilation for safety and comfort.
Learn More: Bird House Safety Tips
7. I put up the bird house for small birds, but larger birds use it instead.
An inappropriate entrance hole can admit larger birds such as house sparrows or European starlings to a bird house, crowding out more desirable residents. Larger birds may even kill hatchlings or brooding adults, but a properly sized entrance hole will keep out larger species while admitting other birds.
Learn More: Bird House Entrance Hole Sizes
8. My beautifully painted bird house never has any residents.
Paint can be toxic to birds, and painting a bird house should be done carefully so as not to endanger adults or nestlings. Exterior paint should be camouflaged to help protect the house from predators and other invaders, as well as to help control the interior temperature of the house.
Learn More: Painting Bird Houses
9. I want to take my bird houses down in winter but birds are still using them.
Many small birds will use bird houses in fall and winter as shelter from poor weather and chilly temperatures. Used as roost boxes, bird houses that are left up all year can encourage more birds to stay nearby, and the houses will still be useful for nesting birds early in the spring.
Learn More: Winterize Your Bird Houses
10. I like to watch my birds, but I’m afraid of scaring them away from the nest.
Bird houses with clear back panels can be attached to a quiet window to give a great view of growing hatchlings, but even those houses may not be private enough for some birds. In that case, it is best to leave the birds alone and rely on more distant observations to enjoy their growing families.
Learn More: Online Bird Nest Cams