NC State Extension Publications

 

Building songbird boxes is a simple, inexpensive way to attract songbirds to your property. This factsheet discusses how to build, install, and maintain nest boxes successfully.

Why Build Songbird Boxes?

Properly constructed nest boxes can provide shelter in those areas negatively affected by urbanization and intensive management. By building boxes, you can insure the songbirds on your land a place to nest.

Before You Begin

Bird species have different habitat needs. To be successful, you must first choose the species you want to attract and understand its food, water, and space requirements. Use the table below to find the proper dimensions of the nest box for the birds you want to attract. By simply changing dimensions and entrance hole sizes, you can furnish cool, dry, durable, easily-cleaned boxes for any of the small to medium-sized bird species in the table (Figure 1).

Materials for Songbird Boxes

To build:

  • Tape measure
  • Hammer
  • 112 to 134-inch galvanized nails
  • Pencil or chalk for marking
  • Saw
  • Lumber

To install:

  • Stepladder or extension ladder
  • 3-inch galvanized nails, lag bolts, or crimped wire
  • Sheet metal for predator guard
Figure 1. Songbird box.

Figure 1. Songbird box.

Helpful Construction Hints

  • Boxes need at least four 14-inch holes in the bottom to allow water to drain. Several 14-inch holes in the sides will provide adequate ventilation (Figure 2).
  • Use durable woods such as cedar, cypress, and pressure-treated pine.
  • Allow for the width of the sawblade when marking and cutting a board.
  • When using hardwood lumber, drill starter holes for the nails to avoid splitting boards.
  • Avoid painting boxes or treating wood with a preservative. These boxes may absorb too much heat or give off toxic vapors
  • Hinge the roof or use a pivot nail on one side of the box to make periodic clean-up easier.

Proper songbird box dimensions for various species.
Species Floor of Box (inches) Depth of Box (inches) Hole Size (inches) Hole Above Floor (inches)
Bluebird 4 x 4 8 - 12 112 6 -10
Chickadee
Titmouse
Nuthatches
4 x 4 9 118
114
138
7
Carolina wren
House wren
Prothonotary
Warbler
4 x 4 6 - 8 112
1 - 114
138
4 - 6
Great-crested flycatcher 6 x 6 8 - 10 134 6 - 8
Flickers 7 x 7 16 - 18 212 14 - 16

Songbird box placement.
Species Box Height (feet) Placement
Carolina wren
House wren
Nuthatches
Chickadee
5 - 10 Woodland clearings; edges
Bluebirds
Flickers
6 Open areas (fields, food plots, pastures)
Great-crested flycatcher 8 - 20 Forest interiors
Prothonotary
Warbler
4 - 12 Wetland areas; over/facing water
Titmouse 5 - 15 Hardwood stands

Figure 2. Cutout diagram of songbird box.

Figure 2. Cutout diagram of songbird box.

Installation and Maintenance

  • Install all boxes by late March or early April.
  • Place the boxes 200 to 300 feet apart to account for the territorial nature of most species.
  • Firmly attach boxes to posts, trees, or buildings. On live trees, use crimped wire or lag bolts that can be loosened as the tree grows.
  • Place boxes where they’ll receive some shade during the day. In pasture situations, place the box across the fence from nosy livestock!
  • Clean out all boxes each year after the young have fledged.
  • Inspect boxes regularly and consider adding predator guards if necessary (Figure 3).
  • Always work in teams when using folding or extension ladders!
Figure 3. Predator guards.

Figure 3. Predator guards.

Authors

Extension Forestry Specialist
Forestry & Environmental Resources
Professor (Wildlife)
Forestry & Environmental Resources
Wildlife biologist

Publication date: Jan. 1, 2019
Revised: April 30, 2019

North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.

North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.