How Do Birds Find Birdhouses? 

In the United States, birdhouses are a common sight. From hanging gourds to copper-roofed gazebos, they come in a variety of shapes, styles, and sizes. Why do birds seek out birdhouses, and how do they locate them remains a mystery.

We’ll concentrate on songbirds in this article, but other huge birds may utilize man-made structures, such as ducks and owls. You’ll discover how birds investigate for and locate birdhouses, as well as the kinds of houses they prefer to build during different seasons.

Key Takeaways

  • Cavity nesters make up the majority of birdhouse inhabitants. These are the wild species that use tree holes as nests.
  • Make sure your birdhouse is the right size, high enough off the ground, with a small entrance hole and no perch. Make it welcoming to house-hunting birds. Predators will be protected against these standards.
  • Birds begin looking for their perfect location early in the spring. In late winter, prepare your habitat or clean out your existing one.


The majority of birds use their eyes to locate prospective nest sites. They’re constantly on the lookout for potential locations while on the go for food and wandering through their surroundings. The search reaches its pinnacle during late winter and early spring. Birds will investigate any contenders for a period of time after discovering suitable sites throughout their region.

Cavity-nesters are birds that are drawn to human-built birdhouses. They hunt for deep holes in tree trunks or dense snags in the wild. The hole is almost certainly the most alluring feature of a birdhouse. Scout around for a certain-sized cavity by using cavity nesting birds.


In the spring, songbirds in North America interact and nest in birdhouses. Breeding season may be as short as six to eight weeks in some parts of the world, or as long as four months in others.

For the breeding season, it’s a good idea to prepare in advance so your home is ready for the new family to arrive. In midwinter, if possible, complete the installation of your bird house.

Why so early?

Setting it up early allows you to identify problems like height, placement, and risk of predation. You may even put it up, take a peek out your window, and decide to relocate it to a better location! By doing this, you have time to experiment and relocate items over the course of a few weeks without causing any nesting birds to be disturbed.

Second, visitors come earlier than you think. Several species of birds come back early in the spring or late in the winter after their migration, and right away start looking around. In late February, I noticed bluebirds investigating prospective locations around birdhouses, which is a popular way to attract birds.


When designing a birdhouse, songbirds must weigh security and ease. While the criteria may vary slightly between species, the following are some of the key ones they consider.


It might be tough to keep the temperature consistent in a little box. Some species may find a birdhouse in the open sun all day to be too hot. A home shaded for at least part of the day, especially in the afternoon, is a favorite habitat for many songbirds. When it comes to sun and wind exposure, facing the first hole north or east is also a good idea. It is important to keep the mother bird, eggs, and fledgling chicks cool.


When nesting, birds like to keep things as quiet as possible. They don’t want anybody to know where their nests are located. Because the location is too busy, a birdhouse adjacent to a water feature or bird feeder will be overlooked. Some species prefer a birdhouse with more branches and foliage, while others prefer one with a more open layout.


Birds will want a cavity that is big enough to house them and their nest, but not so big as to be overwhelming. 5 square inches is enough for most songbirds.

The size of the entryway is also a significant factor. Make sure the hole isn’t excessively big, as most songbirds will fit through it. A predator can enter a bigger hole more readily.

Perches are also unnecessary in most situations, so avoid them. Without the need for a perch, cavity nesting birds may perch and cling, and they won’t have a problem accessing the birdhouse entrance. All a perch does is make it easier for bigger, troublesome birds to get to.

Naturalness is chosen almost always over beauty in birds. Natural finish woods, like cedar and redwood, look wonderful as they age and require little upkeep. They’re lovely, but they’re mostly for show than functionality. The super intricate models that resemble miniature mansions or beach cottages are appealing, but they may not be suitable for a safe birdhouse.


Ensuring your birdhouse is at the proper height is one of the most essential factors in putting it in your yard. Make certain it is at least 5 feet off the ground. Since it raises the likelihood of predators such as squirrels, cats, rats, and snakes finding the nest, not many songbirds want to nest near the ground.

The criteria that each typical birdhouse-using species is seeking may be found on Cornell’s Nestwatch website at the bottom of this page. If you’re looking to attract a certain bird, it’s a valuable resource. Nonetheless, at least a couple species are likely to notice your nice, standard birdhouse.


Since utilized nests frequently accumulate in wild holes, cleaning out birdhouses is optional. Mold, mildew, and take up precious room for a mother bird and her chicks may be attracted to used nests.

Before constructing their new nest, cavity-nesting songbirds may spend time and energy removing aged nesting materials. Nonetheless, it takes time and effort to clean out a birdhouse, and they may simply avoid doing so rather than cleaning it themselves.

By removing old nests in advance, you’ll give the remaining inhabitants time to save themselves.

We recommend cleaning out leftover nesting materials at the end of the breeding season if you have made the leap and invested in a solid nesting box. To make sure it is clean, check it at the start of the following breeding season.

Anything remaining in the nest box should be dumped out at the conclusion of the season. Use a mild bleach solution to clean the inside with a scrub brush. Before putting it away, allow it to completely dry.

During the off-season, birds prefer weathered birdhouses, so don’t be concerned about leaving the house. Winter weather, rain, and wind will wear down the home over time, making it blend in with its surroundings and making it more appealing to prospective inhabitants.

Don’t be concerned if the birds are in need of sufficient nesting materials to build their nests. Birds are clever at conserving food and finding a variety of goods.

Leaving grass and weed clippings on the ground is a big help. During the peak nesting season, some pet owners even place little boxes of shedded dog or cat hair!


It depends on the species of songbird.

Every year, the same location is returned to by purple martins. They prefer to nest in apartment-style birdhouses, unlike many other cavity nesters. On the East Coast of the United States, they are one species of bird that nests exclusively in human-madebirdhouses.

The bird may consider returning if it is aware of a safe nesting habitat with enough food and water for offspring.


When birds decide where to live, they take into account a wide range of factors. Keep your birdhouse well-shaded, away from predators, and near to water and food sources to maximize its effectiveness.

Birds may take a few months to recognize your nest box in the spring, but if you stick with it, you’ll have a brood of chicks in no time at all!

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