Bird and bat boxes

Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Bird box by Ross Hoddinott

As our environments have changed, birds and bats have suffered from a lack of suitable natural breeding sites, so the addition of a nesting or roost box can be a welcome refuge.

Bird boxes

Gardens that are well designed are easily capable of supporting families of blue tits, robins and blackbirds. However it is more difficult to get birds to breed than to feed in your garden. This is partly because the chosen nesting site needs to be in a territory that will provide most of the food that both the adults and young need during this busy phase.

Build your own

This is a simple closed box design to attract tits, sparrows and nuthatches. By altering the diameter of the entrance hole you can attract different bird species:

27mm - Blue, coal and marsh tits
28mm - Tree sparrow
29mm -  House sparrow
30mm - Great tits
32mm - Nuthatch, pied Flycatcher

Location, Location, Location

Birds are also quite specific in their nest requirements. If you are thinking of putting up a bird box, position is crucial. Make sure your nest box is in a sheltered position, facing north-east to south-east, to avoid prevailing wet winds and the heat of the midday sun.

The nest box should also be about 2m off the ground and away from overhanging branches to stop cats reaching the nest. Boxes can be hung from wires to discourage predators, but you must use four wires to ensure that the box will not spin.

Come springtime garden birds start the frantic search for materials to build and insulate the perfect nest. You can give them a hand by putting out suitable nesting materials. Try hanging bundles of straw, fine sticks, shredded woollen jumpers and bunches of grasses close to your feeding station. Your bundles should last through to the summer season of second broods.

Clean out the box out each autumn to prevent a build up of parasites. It is important to leave it for a few weeks until the young have fledged as they may roost in the box for a while after they have left the nest.

Bird box building instructions

Bird box instructions

Bat boxes

As well as being one of the most threatened types of mammal in Britain, bats are also among the most misunderstood. Far from being nasty dangerous animals, they are attractive small, furry insect eaters that need all the help they can get. Bats need a range of roosting sites, including summer daytime roosts, winter hibernation ones and breeding sites. You can help them find a suitable roost by putting up a simple bat box.

Make the box from rough sawn timber to give the bats something to cling to. It is also vital to check that the wood is untreated as many wood preservatives can kill bats.

The best place to position a bat box is on a tree. Place them in groups round three sides of a tree - bats like to move from one box to another during the day and from season to season as temperatures change. It is a good idea to make sure the area near the box is relatively free of branches to give the bat a clear line of flight.

Try and put the boxes as high as possible above the ground to avoid predators. Some species, such as the noctules, prefer roosts at least five metres off the ground.

If you don't have trees in your garden, bat boxes can also be placed on buidlings. A good position is under the eaves of a house as boxes are then sheltered from bad weather.

Bats can take a while to investigate new premises, but if your box is not occupied within three years, try moving it. You can check if the box is being used by looking for crumbly brown or black droppings on the ground.

It is illegal to disturb any bat when it is roosting, or to kill, injure or handle a bat without a licence. If you believe your bat box is occupied then contact us 01473 890089, however if you find a sick or injured bat, please contact the National Bat Helpline on 0345 1300 228.

It is also important to record your bat sightings or roost site.

Check out our section on Gardening for bats to see how to attract these creatures into your outside spaces

Bat box building instructions

Bat box instructions