Birds That Use Birdhouses and How to Attract Them

What Birds Will Use Your Birdhouses and Nest Boxes?

Wrens Nesting in a Birdhouse
Mike's Birds/Flickr/CC by-SA 2.0

Adding birdhouses to your yard is a great way to attract cavity-nesting birds, but not all bird species will choose an enclosed house to raise their families. There are hundreds of bird species throughout the world that will readily use birdhouses and nest boxes, however, and knowing which species are most likely to become tenants can help you prepare to be a bird landlord.

Bird Species That Use Nest Boxes

Many different types of birds will use birdhouses, including:

Chickadees and Tits:

  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Blue tit
  • Carolina chickadee
  • Chestnut-backed chickadee
  • Coal tit
  • Great tit
  • Marsh tit
  • Tufted titmouse


  • Common goldeneye
  • Hooded merganser
  • Wood duck

Finches and Sparrows:

Flycatchers and Warblers:

  • Ash-throated flycatcher
  • Black redstart
  • Great crested flycatcher
  • Lucy's warbler
  • Pied flycatcher
  • Prothonotary warbler

Nuthatches and Creepers:

  • Brown creeper
  • Brown-headed nuthatch
  • Red-breasted nuthatch
  • White-breasted nuthatch

Swifts and Swallows:




Birds of Prey:

  • American kestrel
  • Barn owl
  • Eastern screech owl
  • Lesser kestrel
  • Tawny owl
  • Western screech owl

Attracting Birds to Birdhouses

Just because a bird species has been recorded as using birdhouses does not mean they will move in as soon as a house is available. Birders who make their property more attractive to the birds will be more likely to attract nesting birds, and that means meeting the birds' survival necessities.

  • Food: A variety of food sources, including bird feeders as well as natural foods, will ensure that nesting birds have plenty to feed their chicks. Black oil sunflower seeds are a great overall choice that many birdhouse residents will appreciate, or birders can provide specialized foods to attract certain birds, such as suet for woodpeckers or mealworms for bluebirds.
  • Water: All birds need fresh water for drinking and bathing, and a clean water source can make a yard even more attractive for nesting birds. Basic bird baths are fine, or birders can use bird bath fountains not only for water, but also for the splashing sounds and light-catching sparkles that will attract even more birds.
  • Shelter: Thicket-like shelter that includes evergreen trees and a variety of native plants will be most attractive to nesting birds. They will use twigs, plant down, mosses, and bits of leaves for nesting material, and will hide in brush piles and bird-friendly shrubs to stay safe from predators and poor weather.
  • Bird-Friendly Landscaping: The best yards will incorporate bird-friendly landscaping that includes not only native plants, but also naturalized areas for birds to feel comfortable. Avoiding too much pesticide or insecticide use is essential to protect birds and allow them to feast on nutritious insects, as well as ensure there is spider silk available for nest-building.

While it is essential to attract more birds so potential residents will notice the birdhouse, it is important to remember that nesting birds require privacy to feel secure while raising their families. Once a yard is attractive to birds, the birdhouse or nest box should be placed in a private area of the yard away from the busiest concentrations of feathered visitors.

Choose the Best Birdhouse

Even a bird-friendly yard with a birdhouse won't attract nesting birds if it isn't the right type of house. Different birds prefer different house sizes and styles, and there are certain considerations birders should make when getting started with birdhouses to be sure they have selected the right house for their birds.

  • Choose a house with the right entrance hole size for the desired birdhouse residents. A too-large hole will invite more aggressive birds to take over, while a too-small hole will keep desired birds from using the house.
  • Be sure the house is the right overall size, including interior floor space and height. A larger house won't provide enough insulation to keep baby birds warm, but they can smother in a house that is too small.
  • Adjust the house as needed to be safe, including proper ventilation and drainage holes. Do not use a birdhouse that does not have the necessary safety features, even if it is the proper size for nesting birds.
  • Take steps to protect birdhouses from predators, including raccoons, mice, and snakes. Baffles can keep predators from getting to the house, and removing house entrance perches can ensure predators don't get a foothold to get into the house.

By knowing what birds are most likely to use a birdhouse, how to make your yard attractive to nesting birds, and how to ensure the house is suitable for the birds you attract, it is easy to become a bird landlord for many breeding seasons to come.

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  2. Backyard Birding, Homes for Birds. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service