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    Hanging Birdhouses to Attract Specific Species

    Bluebird perched on a bluebird box.

    If you want to watch birds from your kitchen window, add bird to your yard and garden. When you think of a birdhouse, you're probably thinking about cavity-nesting birds like bluebirds or wrens. They need a fully enclosed shelter. Many popular songbirds are cavity nesters, but other favorites such as robins and cardinals prefer a more open nesting perch. Here's how to attract cavity-nesting birds and other birds to your garden.

    Birdhouses for Cavity Nesters

    Bluebirds, wrens, nuthatches, chickadees, purple martins, tree swallows, owls, wood ducks and many other birds will create nests within birdhouses, hollow logs or other "cavities." When you hang a birdhouse, you're making it easier for these types of birds to find shelter. There are certain requirements and considerations for all birdhouses for cavity nesters:

    • Make sure you have a hinged roof or side so that you can easily clean the birdhouse each season.
    • Remove or omit perches on birdhouses. They're not necessary and can attract unwanted "pest birds."
    • Provide a 2 in. roof overhang to prevent cats from reaching into the birdhouse.
    • Drill ¼ in. holes in the bottom of the birdhouse for drainage.
    • Space birdhouses at least 25 ft. apart in the yard to prevent competition from birds.
    • Keep birdhouse entrance holes to a maximum of 1 â…œ in. to prevent starlings from nesting in them.

    There are entire books devoted to the subject of birds and their housing and nesting requirements. Here are tips for attracting the most popular songbirds to your birdhouses.

    Bluebirds

    For the best chance of attracting a pair of bluebirds to your yard, hang two bluebird boxes 25 to 30 ft. apart on the edge of your yard. Bluebirds will likely take one box, and sparrows the other. By having two, you ensure that there's space for the bluebirds. Mount bluebird houses 4 to 6 ft. high on a post or tree trunk facing a shrub.

    Purple Martins

    Purple martin houses must be installed in wide-open areas, with no trees within 40 to 60 ft. of the birdhouses. The birdhouses should be 30 to 100 ft. away from human houses — generally you should place them in the largest, most open spot in your yard. Place houses 10 to 15 ft. high.

    Wrens

    Wrens aren't picky about where they nest, and will nest in almost any available cavity. To ensure they nest where you want them (instead of on the wreath on your front door), provide a house. Mount the wren house on a pole 6 to 10 ft. off the ground. Placing the house near a brush, leaf or compost pile will encourage the birds to nest there.

    Birdhouses for Non-Cavity Nesters

    Don't forget robins, cardinals and other non-cavity nesters when hanging birdhouses. Robins prefer to nest on open platforms protected by roof overhangs or trees. Cardinals like partially enclosed nesting boxes placed in dense shrubbery 4 ft. off the ground.

    By providing wild birds with shelter, you increase the chances of welcoming them into your yard, where you can bird-watch to your heart's content.