Prior to selecting a bird house you must know what type of birds are cavity nesters and if you have those birds in your yard. Cavity can be broadly defined as any place that a bird can build a nest and includes, but is not limited to: a place they can excavate, moving into an abandoned hole of other birds, nesting boxes, cliff crevices, cavities of snags or rotting trees, tree stumps and building nooks and crannies.
Some of the birds that are cavity nesters are; wrens, chickadees, bluebirds, titmouse, nuthatch and finches. All of them will use nesting boxes but not all of them will use the entire list of alternatives listed above. Not all nesting boxes are the same. Different breeds of birds prefer different types of boxes. The wrens prefer a diamond-shaped boxed, all the others use ones that are more shoebox shaped. A deal breaker for the birds in determining if what you have provided is the perfect place to raise their young could be where you have placed the nesting box.
Bluebirds like their houses placed 4 – 6 feet above ground and 50 to 100 yards apart. Facing the houses to the south or southeast will make them more attractive to the bluebirds. If possible, select places where there are trees, shrubs, fences or utility wires within 25 to 100 feet of the houses. The birds use these as perches when feeding and the young find them helpful as they are learning to fly. Other species of birds are more apt to use the houses if they are placed near woods or brush piles.
Chickadees like their houses mounted 5 to 15 feet high with the entrance facing away from the prevailing wind. Placing the houses in areas that receive 40% – 60% sunlight such as forests, woodlots, and yards with mature hardwood trees, forest edges or meadows will help to attract Black-capped and Carolina Chickadees if they are in your area. Mountain Chickadees will find houses placed in coniferous forests, forest edges and woodland clearings more attractive. You can also put one inch of wood shavings in the houses if you want. Chickadees are sure to stay in your yard if you continue to fill your suet and peanut feeders through the summer.
The White-breasted Nuthatch is a secondary cavity dweller so they look for a nesting place that has already been used by another bird, whether it be a nest that was created naturally or by another bird. Nuthatches will find houses that are mounted 5 to 20 feet high in a mature forest away from buildings facing away from prevailing winds. You can also put one inch of wood shavings in the houses if you want. The Red-breasted Nuthatch prefers to excavate its own nest cavity and commonly uses a rotten stub or branch of a dead tree. Although, occasionally they use a nest box. Place the house so the entrance hole is away from prevailing winds. You many also add 1 inch of wood shavings in the house, if you wish.
House Finches prefer edge habitat, and even in desert areas, these finches need a source of water, as well as structures for perching and nesting. These structures may be small conifers or buildings. House Wren nest boxes should also be mounted 5 to 10 feet high near trees or tall shrubs.
The Tufted Titmouse House should be mounted 5 to 15 feet high facing away from prevailing wind and spaced one box per eight acres.