How Do Birds Find Birdhouses? (How To Make Them More Appealing)


Have you ever wondered how birds find birdhouses or nesting spots in the wild? 

Is it just sheer luck or is there a process to it?

There’s not much of a process to it. Birds usually fly around looking for a suitable tree hole or a birdhouse to settle in, and they keep flying until they find what they’re looking for.

What exactly are they looking for, though? And why are no birds interested in your birdhouses? Time to find out.

How Do Birds Find Birdhouses?

Birds that use birdhouses find them through trial and error. When it’s time to nest, they start looking for appropriate nest spots.

These are usually tree crevices or birdhouses that will shelter them from the elements and keep the chicks warm.

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As a bird flies around, it’s instinctively looking for a suitable crevice. It will spot your birdhouse and inspect it. If the bird finds it suitable, it’ll build a nest inside.

If you think about it, the birdhouse you’re putting up in your yard is nothing more than a high-tech crevice. The only difference between your birdhouse and a hole in a tree is the fact that it’s manmade.

Birds find birdhouses by sheer luck – it can take them both hours and days to find a suitable nesting spot. They just keep flying around until they eventually stumble upon something that fits.

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In some places, such as India, it’s so warm most of the time that some birds build their nests out in the open, even though they’d normally settle in a tree hole or a birdhouse.

How To Make Your Birdhouse More Appealing

A bird won’t build a nest in your birdhouse if it’s not good enough for them. If the birdhouse is appealing enough and a bird finds it, you can almost guarantee it’ll move in.

Here are the things to incorporate in your birdhouse design to make it more appealing to birds.

Birdhouse Design and Positioning

Use untreated wood, and if you do paint the birdhouse, only paint the outside. Birds can smell paint fumes even weeks after you’ve applied them and that can scare them off.

You should also stick to smaller entry holes. Small birds, such as titmice, sparrows, finches, warblers, etc., don’t want a starling invading their nest. A hole should never be larger than 1 3/8” (3.5 cm) in diameter.

Drill four small holes in the floor – these will allow the rain to drip out. Birds will evacuate a birdhouse if it starts flooding and they most likely won’t return. On top of that – the water will destroy the wood!

Although it complicates the design a little bit, build a tilted roof instead of a flat roof. It’s better at keeping the rain out.

Depending on which species you want to attract, mount your birdhouse high up. A birdhouse mounted on a tree at a height of 9 feet should be high enough to deter most raccoons and cats (although there’s no guarantee).

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The safest way to mount a birdhouse is on a squirrel-proof pole – these poles are perfectly round and very slippery, so animals can’t climb them.

If there’s already a birdhouse in your yard, you should put your new birdhouse at least 30 feet away. Some species are very territorial and more than willing to fight anyone they perceive as an intruder.

A new family of birds will easily be scared away by this.

The Surrounding Habitat

This is as important as the design of the birdhouse – birds won’t move into a birdhouse if the habitat is inhospitable.

An inhospitable habitat means that there’s little to no water and food, and that there are predators around.

Start with placing your birdhouse in a spot your cat or dog can’t reach. Dogs can’t reach most birdhouses, but they can still scare the birds away by barking – something to keep in mind.

Cats can climb very well, and if you think your furry friend will climb up a tree at a height of 9 feet because it’s curious to see what’s making the chirping noise, mount the birdhouse on a squirrel-proof pole.

Once predators are taken care of, you can move on to food and water.

Birds get most of their water from food, but they still like to drink from ponds, streams, rivers, and fountains. Aside from drinking, they like bathing in water to get rid of all the dirt and excess skin oil.

A bird bath is the best way to cater to their water needs, and even if you install a small one, that’ll be enough to attract them. Add a bubbler to the bird bath to make it even more attractive!

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Bird feeders should go without saying – animals are naturally more attracted to areas that have plenty of food, and if your bird feeder is always full, the birdhouse will become much more attractive.

You shouldn’t put the food in the birdhouse or too close to it, as that will attract other birds. The bird feeder being in the same yard as the birdhouse will be enough.

Finally, we have to mention nesting materials and bushes. Birds build their own nests and you shouldn’t do it for them.

What you should do, though, is leave dried grasses, twigs, and leaves in a pile in your yard. Birds will use them as nest-building materials, but they’ll also instinctively hide in the pile if they see a predator!

If you have bushes or hedges in your yard, the birds will use them as a hiding spot.

Get Our FREE Bird Feeder Cheat Sheet
Want more birds in your backyard? Get simple tips on attracting feathered friends and maximizing your bird feeding setup. Our free cheat sheet has got you covered!
Download The FREE Cheat Sheet

James Goodman

James is a native Texan with a love for birding and outdoor adventures. When he's not birdwatching, you can find him hiking, camping or playing the piano.

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