Top 10 Bird House Problems

Make Your Bird Houses More Attractive to Nesting Birds

Cat on a Bird House
Photo © Andy Miccone/Flickr/CC0 1.0

Bird houses are a fantastic way to add shelter to a bird-friendly backyard, but if no birds are nesting in the houses, why not? There can be a wide range of problems and difficulties with bird houses, but there are also easy ways to fix each problem to make the houses more attractive to nesting birds. If birds aren’t using your houses, check these common problems and solutions to be a better bird landlord.

  • 01 of 10

    No birds at all even look at the bird houses in my yard.

    Killdeer Nest
    Photo © Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife/Flickr/CC by-SA 2.0

    It may be that there are no cavity-nesting birds in your backyard. Only certain species of birds will use houses, and if you know which birds those are, you can add feeders, water features and shelter to make the yard more attractive to those birds. As they get more comfortable with your yard, they will start to check out the available nesting sites, including your bird houses.

    Learn More: Birds That Use Bird Houses

  • 02 of 10

    Birds build their nests before my bird houses are ready.

    Spring Flowers in Snow
    Photo © Anders Knudsen/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    If you’re waiting until spring flowers bloom to put up bird houses, it may be too late to attract the first nesters. Early-nesting birds, however, may still investigate the house for additional broods later in the season. Putting houses up earlier can help attract the earliest nesting species and ensure the houses are ready for residents. Ideally, have houses ready to go in late winter to be available for every nesting bird.

    Learn More: When Is the Best Time to Put Up Bird Houses?

  • 03 of 10

    Birds never stay near the bird house and nest elsewhere instead.

    Unique Bird Houses
    Photo © Sonny Abesamis/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    Some bird species can be very particular about their preferred houses, including floor dimensions, house shape and other details. Finding bird houses that are specially designed for the species you want nesting nearby is the best option for meeting their needs with an appropriate house. Be sure you use houses of the right dimensions and with the proper entrance hole size to suit the birds you have in your yard.

    Learn More: Free Bird House Plans

  • 04 of 10

    Birds nesting build their nests lower than where my bird house is located.

    Tree Canopy
    Photo © Lisa Campeau/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    Where you mount a bird house is just as critical as the size and shape of the house itself. Some birds will use higher houses, while others prefer houses closer to the ground. Birds nest at different heights and have different preferences for whether the house is mounted on a pole or tree, or if it can be hung. Understanding birds’ preferences can help you position your bird houses properly.

    Learn More: Mounting a Bird House

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    I leave the old nest in the house for birds to reuse, but they never do.

    Old Bird Nest
    Photo © Jenn (Yana)/Flickr/CC by-SA 2.0

    Most nesting songbirds will not reuse old nests, though they may reuse a small amount of the nesting material to build a fresh nest. The best option is to clean out bird houses after every brood has fledged so the house is clean and clear for another pair of nesting birds to use. This also reduces the risk of dangerous contamination from old feces, feather mites or insect infestations in an old nest.

    Learn More: How to Clean a Bird House

  • 06 of 10

    My bird house is threatened by cats, mice and other invaders.

    Cat on a Bird House
    Photo © Andy Miccone/Flickr/CC0 1.0

    Birds always look for a safe location to raise their nestlings. Adding safety features such as baffles or guards to a bird house will help protect the brooding birds. Perches should be removed from each house, and the house design should include drainage and ventilation for safety and comfort. Keep cats indoors and take steps to discourage feral cats and other unwelcome bird house predators from your yard.

    Learn More: Bird House Safety Tips

  • 07 of 10

    I put up the bird house for small birds, but larger birds use it instead.

    European Starling
    Photo © hedera.baltica/Flickr/CC by-SA 2.0

    An inappropriate entrance hole can admit larger birds such as house sparrows or European starlings to a bird house, crowding out more desirable residents. Larger birds may even kill hatchlings or brooding adults, but a properly sized entrance hole will keep out larger species while admitting other birds. If the hole has gotten bigger over the years, there are easy ways to fix it to keep larger birds from entering.

    Learn More: Bird House Entrance Hole Sizes

  • 08 of 10

    My beautifully painted bird house never has any residents.

    Paint Brushes
    Photo © Dean Hochman/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    Paint can be toxic to birds, and painting a bird house should be done carefully so as not to endanger adults or nestlings. Exterior paint should be camouflaged to help protect the house from predators and other invaders, as well as to help control the interior temperature of the house. Avoid any paints with glitter or other quirky accents, and opt for simple, understated designs to appeal to more cautious birds.

    Learn More: Painting Bird Houses

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    I want to take my bird houses down in winter but birds are still using them.

    Bird House in Snow
    Photo © VasenkaPhotography/Flickr/CC by 2.0

    Many small birds will use bird houses in fall and winter as shelter from poor weather and chilly temperatures. Used as roost boxes, bird houses that are left up all year can encourage more birds to stay nearby, and the houses will still be useful for nesting birds early in the spring. Houses should still be cleaned in late fall, but they can be left up year-round for birds seeking shelter at any time.

    Learn More: Winterize Your Bird Houses

  • 10 of 10

    I like to watch my birds, but I’m afraid of scaring them away from the nest.

    Great Tit Nest in Bird House
    Photo © NottsExMiner/Flickr/CC by-SA 2.0

    Bird houses with clear back panels can be attached to a quiet window to give a great view of growing hatchlings, but even those houses may not be private enough for some birds. Nesting birds should not be disturbed with flash photography, frequent "peeks" or other intrusions that can stress brooding adults and young chicks. It is best to leave the birds alone and rely on more distant observations to enjoy their growing families.

    Learn More: Online Bird Nest Cams