Common backyard birds in North America that will use birdhouses are wrens, chickadees, titmice, and bluebirds; and other types of birds can also be attracted to birdhouses, according to National Wildlife. If you’re a nature-loving 50+, retiree or senior with time on your hands, put up a birdhouse so you can admire your outdoor feathered friends at leisure.
Early spring is a good time to install backyard birdhouses because the birds are more actively looking for nesting sites, but it can take a couple of years for birds to find the house. Regardless of what time of year you want to put your birdhouse up, you should first consider what type of birds you want to attract.
Be aware that many birds won’t use bird houses – hummingbirds, cardinals, and blue jays, for example, according to The Best Birdhouses, According to Birders by Chloe Anello.
Birdhouse Preferences by Bird Types
Earth tone colour birdhouses with circular entry holes placed 6″ above the floor of the birdhouse, are best for:
Bluebirds & Swallows – are larger in size than chickadees and wrens, so they require a slightly bigger birdhouse (5.5″ x 5.5″, by 10″ tall), earth-tone in colour. Swallows like to be near water, and both Swallows and Bluebird birdhouses should be placed on a post that faces east onto or near an open field where they can find the type of food they like. The entry hole for a Bluebird bird house should be maximum 1.5″ in diameter for Eastern Bluebirds, and 1.8″ in diameter for Mountain and Western Bluebirds.
Wrens – These smaller birds like to have their 4″ x 4″ by 8″ tall, earth-tone colour birdhouse hanging from a small tree in your yard or on a post, approximately 5-10′ above the ground. Carolina Wrens prefer their birdhouse to be hidden in natural habitat.
Chickadees and Titmice – Like an earth-tone birdhouse 4″ x 4″ or 5″ x 5″, and 8″ tall, placed 4-8′ above ground in an area with dense natural habitat, such as a grove of trees or shrubs.
Other birds that will nest in birdhouses or shelters and have different requirements for colour and placement of circular entry hole, are:
Purple Martins – Martins flock together and like their white colour birdhouses placed between 15-20′ above ground should be apartment-building style, with multiple sections each 6″ x 6″ by 6″ tall. Their entry hole should be 2.5″ in diameter, and slightly closer to the floor of the birdhouse than is preferred by the other bird types (2.5″ instead of 6″). Purple Martins like their birdhouses to be placed in the open, near water and large expanses of grass/lawn; they also like to perch on overhead utility wires. (Photo: Mason-Dixon Park)
Woodpeckers – Prefer tree cavities, but like birdhouses in natural colours that are placed between 8-20′ above ground on a mature tree trunk in a wooded area, with 4″ of wood shavings on the floor. Different dimensions and sizes of entry holes vary depending on the type of woodpecker, from the small Downy Woodpecker (4″ x 4″ by 10″ tall; hole 1.25″ diameter, 6-8 ” above the birdhouse floor), to the large Northern Flicker Woodpecker (7″ x 7″ by 18″ tall; hole 2.5″ diameter, 14″ above the bird house floor).
Robins – Instead of a birdhouse per se, Robins prefer earth tone colour, 3-sided bird shelters that are open in front. Size should be approximately 6″ x 6″ by 8″ tall, and placed on the side of a building or tree, in an area with mature trees and grassy lawns.
Features All Birdhouses Should Have
- Thick walls made of untreated wood to protect birds from the elements and predators
- Holes for ventilation and drainage
- An extended and sloped roof to keep out the rain; best if it is hinged or lifts up so you can check it occasionally and remove any invasive species
- A baffle (ie a slippery pipe) to keep out raccoons, snakes, cats and other predators
More About Birds:
Note: This article was first published in 2016. It has been updated with new content.