10 Birds That Will Use Nest Boxes

Watching garden birds flutter about can provide hours of entertainment for avid birdwatchers and non-birdwatchers alike. It provides a soothing sense of peace and a break from the stressors of daily life. In hopes of attracting more birds to their gardens, many people will set up bird feeders, water fountains, and nesting boxes. There are a large variety of birds that will take people up on their offers of free food at feeders and easy access to water. However, not as many birds are likely to utilise man-made nesting boxes. Their reasons may vary from the lack of feeling safe to the type of nests they build, which may not be suited for the nesting boxes. Regardless, there are still several kinds of birds that will make use of the provided nesting boxes. Here are some of the British birds that will use the nesting boxes when they are available. 

List of Birds That Will Use Nesting Boxes 

The most common birds that will nest in these nesting boxes are:

  1. Blue Tits
  2. Coal Tits
  3. Nuthatches
  4. Tree Sparrows
  5. House Sparrows
  6. Wrens
  7. Blackbirds
  8. Robins
  9. Song Thrushes
  10. Starlings

Some of these birds are discussed in more detail below. Birds that will not use the nesting boxes include chaffinch, goldfinch, and long-tail tits. These birds prefer to build their own nests in trees and bushes.

Nesting Boxes 

Nesting boxes are available in all colours, shapes, and sizes. Nesting boxes are usually made from natural wood. A standard nesting box is an enclosed wooden box with a small circular hole carved into the front of the box, which is used as an entrance point for the breeding birds. The circular hole and enclosed space provide the nest protection from large predators. 

Another kind of nesting box is the open front nesting box. This kind of nesting box does not have a circular opening. Instead, it is constructed without most of the front wall of the box. Usually, the front does have a short wall to keep the nest contained, but it leaves the remainder of the front face exposed for the birds. It does not provide ample protection from predators or natural elements. Different bird species prefer different shaped nesting boxes. 

There are a few points to consider when placing nesting boxes in your garden. Make sure the nesting box is out of direct sunlight, and the opening of the nesting box is faced in a northeast direction to avoid the sunlight entering through the opening. Direct sunlight onto, or into, a nesting box will make the box too hot for the chicks inside to survive. If possible, make sure to protect the nesting box from extreme elements such as the wind or rain. Placing the nesting box in a tree, against a wall, or on a fence will help to shield the box from harsh elements. Open front nesting boxes are usually used by birds that nest in dense undergrowth. When placing these boxes, make sure to tuck them into the foliage and vegetation to ensure that it is hidden from predators. Open front nesting boxes should also be placed at least 1.5 meters off the ground. These boxes can be tucked into shrubs, bushes, or climbing plants.

Blue Tits 

Blue Tits are the most common garden bird in the United Kingdom. They are identifiable by their small size, bright blue and yellow plumage, and acrobatic skills. Blue tits prefer wooded areas, so place the nesting box about six feet off the ground in a tree. Blue tits prefer to check for predators before leaving the nest. If you wish to attract Blue Tits to your garden, use a standard nesting box with a 25mm or 28mm sized holeentrance. 

Great Tits

Great Tits are another common garden bird in the United Kingdom. They are identifiable by their black head and neck, white cheeks, olive-colored wings and tail, and yellow chest and belly. They have a distinct black stripe that runs from their bills to their legs. Great Tits are also considered cavity nesters, which means they seek our holes in trees. They readily breed in nesting boxes. If you wish to attract Great Tits to your garden, use a standard nesting box with a 28mm or 32mm sized hole entrance.

Coal Tits 

Coal tits are the smallest of the tit family. They are identifiable by their black caps, white cheeks, and a signature white rectangle on the back of their head and neck. Their chest and belly are off-white or olive in color, and their wings and tail are gray. Their small size often leads to bullying from other birds around feeders. Coal Tits are also cavity nesters; however, they prefer their nests lower to the ground than the other tits. While Coal tits may use nesting boxes, Great and Blue Tits often prevent them from doing so. There have been studies that showed evidence that Coal Tits may prefer nesting boxes with a narrow vertical slit entrance instead of the round holes. If you wish to attract Coal Tits to your garden, use a standard nesting box with a 25mm or 28mm sized hole entrance, or perhaps try a nesting box that has a slit entrance. 


Nuthatches sport a black cap, a black stripe over the eye, a white stripe above the eye, white cheeks, white or orange chest and belly, and bluish-grey wings and tail. They are cavity nesters and often nest in abandoned woodpecker holes. It is uncommon for Nuthatches to choose nesting boxes; however, if there are no natural cavities available, they will settle in. The White-Breasted Nuthatches may sometimes use nesting boxes as a winter roost site. If you wish to attract Nuthatches to your garden, use a standard nesting box with a 32mm sized hole entrance. It may entice them if you add one inch of wood shavings to the box floor. 

Tree Sparrows

Tree Sparrows are identifiable by their warm brown crowns, white patches on the side of their heads, and black cheek patches. Tree sparrows prefer lowland countryside, which are suitable for growing crops. These areas are usually more rural. Tree Sparrows are more prominent in northeast England and eastern Scotland. Tree sparrows are more likely to visit your garden in the winter while foraging for food. They prefer to nest in loose colonies of ten to fifty pairs. If you wish to attract Tree Sparrows to your garden, use a standard nesting box with a 28mm or 32mm sized hole entrance. Make sure to place several nesting boxes together or use a ‘sparrow terrace’ nesting box. A ‘sparrow terrace’ nesting box is a box that houses between two and four chambers. This is ideal for attracting colony nesters. 

House Sparrows 

House Sparrows are identifiable by their grey crowns, grey cheeks, grey chests and bellies, and chestnut wings. Female house sparrows display less vibrant colors and often look completely brown. House sparrows are often found in urban areas and are strongly associated with human habitation. House Sparrows prefer to nest in groups. If you wish to attract House Sparrows to your garden, use a sparrow terrace nesting box or place several standard nesting boxes within close proximity of each other. The nest entrance hole size should be about 32mm.

Final Thoughts 

There are a large variety of birds that use nesting boxes. Consider the species of the birds that you wish to attract to your garden and set up the nesting boxes to their specific boxes.Encourage birds to stay in your garden by fulfilling their needs. Add a few bird feeders and a birdbath to your garden. To prepare for breeding season, place some nesting materials around your garden for the birds to discover. Most importantly, have patience. Birds spend weeks choosing a spot to create their nest. Don’t be discouraged if you see birds investigating the new nesting box and then leaving again. Sometimes new nesting boxes are not utilized during the first breeding season. So, set up your nesting boxes and enjoy birdwatching.