Providing nest boxes for birds

Starling nest box

Starling nest box - Credit: Archant

The RSPB is encouraging people to donate nest boxes for birds through the cold winter months

A birdbox on a tree stump

A birdbox on a tree stump - Credit: Archant

Now it’s February, we’re finally nearing the end of winter. No matter how chilly or mild it has been, the short daylight hours and long, dark nights seem to be dragging by this time. Our wildlife will be feeling it too and, not unlike us, they will revel in the warmth and light to come. It is now that we will begin to notice our native and visiting birds assessing their surroundings and seeking potential homes to start a family in before the breeding season begins. Last month the RSPB asked the public to observe our feathered friends in the Big Garden Birdwatch, counting the different species coming and going. This month it’s asking you to do something different to help our birds, by Giving Nature a Home.

National Nest Box Week runs from February 14 to 21 and, started by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), has been established for more than 15 years. During this week we encourage you to provide nest boxes for birds for the coming breeding season. While there are plenty of places to buy them, it’s great fun to try your hand at making one. We’ll certainly be giving it a go at the RSPB South Essex Visitor Centre in Wat Tyler Country Park, Pitsea, so come and join us throughout National Nest Box Week if you would like to try putting together a pre-made kit. Alternatively, check out the RSPB shop for advice on nest boxes or to purchase one for your garden.

It will come as no surprise to many of you that lots of our garden birds are struggling. For example, house sparrows have declined in numbers by more than 70% since 1977. One of the main reasons for declines like this is the loss of nesting sites in the countryside, so here is where we can all do something for so many struggling species. By providing a nest box, not only will you be doing a huge service to the garden birds of Essex, it could also provide you with some summer entertainment and delightful company, as you watch the birds popping in and out finding food for their little ones. From blue tits to barn owls and starlings to house sparrows, you really will be helping these birds enormously.

However, you can help by more than just providing birds with nest boxes. If your more into your mammals, how about putting up a bat box? While their first breeding season isn’t for a couple of months, it’s a good idea to get set up nice and early for them. If bats aren’t your thing, you could make your garden accessible for hedgehogs and provide a home for them, or what about a bug hotel or a bee box? We’re so lucky to have a vast array of wildlife to enjoy and appreciate, but they need our help to survive and thrive. As is the case with wildlife, there is no guarantee if and when creatures will show up, so be patient and willing to wait. It’s worth it in the end! w

Find out more

For more information on providing homes for wildlife, visit and for details about RSPB events in South Essex, visit