Many backyard birders enjoy attracting nesting birds, but they also want birdhouses to be attractive garden or yard decorations even if the houses aren't active residences. Is painting birdhouses safe, or are painted birdhouses less beautiful or dangerous for the birds that use them? And if you want to paint, which birdhouse colors are best?
Designs for Painted Birdhouses
There are many beautiful painted birdhouses in every color and design imaginable. A simple solid, color birdhouse is easy to paint, whether in muted tones or bold palettes. At the same time, some artistic birders create birdhouses that resemble real homes' paint jobs with coordinating colors and trim.
Themed houses are also popular, and a basic birdhouse can be transformed into a patriotic palace, country tea cottage, or whimsical ornament with different paint schemes.
School or sports team colors, rainbows, or bird-themed paint jobs are also cool designs. Not all of these paint schemes are best for the birds, however. For example, bright colors might attract unwanted attention.
Is Painting Birdhouses Good for Birds?
Birds that use houses aren't always picky about their accommodations, and they will nest in painted birdhouses if the house's size, shape, and placement meet their needs. However, painting isn't always the best choice for birdhouses because a poorly chosen paint job can be dangerous.
- Bright colors for birdhouses: Bright colors can draw unwanted attention that will attract predators. Birds prefer camouflage or natural colors that blend in with their surroundings.
- Best paint types: Paints can be toxic to both adult birds and fledglings. When choosing paint, make sure you select an acrylic, water-based latex, or watercolor paint that is labeled "non-toxic." Acrylic paints are odorless and tend to be more durable than latex paint. Latex is the cheapest option, paints on wood the easiest, and produces the least fumes of any paint option.
- Wood options: While cedar and cypress houses are naturally durable and do not require painting, pine or plywood birdhouses can be made more weatherproof and long-lasting with a good coat of quality paint.
- Dark colors: Dark colors in sunny areas absorb heat, potentially overheating the house, smothering young birds, or fostering toxic levels of bacteria growth.
There are times, however, when a carefully chosen paint job can be good for a birdhouse. Paint can help seal small cracks that would otherwise widen in the summer heat and destroy the house's integrity, and a good paint job can revitalize an older birdhouse so it can be used for more nesting seasons.
Best Birdhouse Colors
The best colors for a birdhouse depend on the house type and its location. Natural camouflaged colors such as gray, dull green, brown, or tan help the house blend into its environment and keep nesting birds safe from predators. However, if the home is mounted in a colorful flower garden, choose more colorful paints that coordinate with nearby floral hues.
White paint is recommended for purple martin houses to help reflect heat away from these open-area houses, and any place in a sunny area can benefit from that heat reflection on hot summer days.
Fluorescent, metallic, or iridescent paints should generally be avoided because of their overly dramatic brightness and other paint additives that could harm wildlife.
Where to Find Birdhouses to Paint
If you're ready to get a birdhouse, you have a more extensive selection online. Online sellers like Amazon and Wayfair have unfinished houses. You can also find them at craft stores like Michaels or home stores like Target and Walmart.
Many online tutorials can guide you to making your own birdhouse from wood scraps. And crafting stores and online sellers offer craft kits that contain all the supplies you need, including the paint. Before buying a craft kit that comes with paint, confirm the paint is non-toxic and bird-safe—using latex, acrylic, or watercolor.
Tips for Painting a Birdhouse
- Never use lead-based or creosote paints that may be toxic to birds.
- Consider trying alternative, eco-friendly, or naturally derived paints, or opt for natural or organic stains rather than paints.
- Avoid painting the inside of a birdhouse or around the lip of the entrance hole. Growing birds may peck at surfaces and ingest paint chips, or small chips could get into hatchlings' delicate eyes.
- Ensure the paint does not block or seal small ventilation holes or drainage holes in the house. These holes are necessary for a safe birdhouse and should always be kept open and useful.
- Allow the paint to dry thoroughly for several days before mounting the house for birds to use. This will allow potentially toxic odors to disperse before birds investigate the house and will keep those odors from attracting nearby predators.
- Check for peeling paint, chips, or fading when cleaning the birdhouse at the end of each breeding season. Repaint or reseal the house to keep the paint job in a good, safe condition.
Painted appropriately with safe colors and non-toxic paints, a painted birdhouse can be attractive to birds. A brightly colored, highly visible house, however, may not attract tenants if more suitable nesting sites are available. By choosing paints, colors, and designs carefully, birders can enjoy attractive, decorative birdhouses where birds will be happy to take up residence.