So you want to hang a birdhouse

Birds often seek out safe spaces to roost and sleep. They nest in spring, but they also use roost boxes in winter to stay warm. Perhaps you’ve noticed quite a bit of bird activity in your yard and thought it might be nice to hang a birdhouse.

There are many reasons that you might like to hang a birdhouse in trees on your property. These reasons could include bringing colorful wildlife into your yard for viewing pleasure, and attracting birds to your yard for natural pest control.

Here’s a quick guide for hanging a birdhouse.

Picking your tree and birdhouse

Without going into too much detail, there is a method for selecting the right tree and house for the birds that are attracted to your yard. Not sure which birds you have? Download the Audubon Bird Guide app, available on the iPhone App Store, Google Play and Amazon.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a comprehensive list of types of trees, the birds they attract and the benefits the trees offer to their residents.

Sialis.org has a nice nestbox specifications guide for many different types of birds to help you select the right-size birdhouse and know how high to mount it.

The best time to put up a new birdhouse is in the fall or early winter.

What not to do when installing a birdhouse

Do not nail a birdhouse to a tree. Nails can cause damage, and over time could introduce wood-decay fungi that will rot the tree.

Do not hang a birdhouse on a branch using a tightly wound string, cord or sling. As the tree grows, it will grow around the cordage, which will cause girdling, or choking, of the tree’s cambium (the cambium is the tree’s pathway for fluids and nutrients). Girdling will cause a wound that could either promote tree breakage at that point, or branch die back from lack of water and nutrients.

Birdhouse installation options

Birds at a birdhouseThe best way to mount a birdhouse without damaging your trees is on a standalone post. The post could be located under a tree for the shade and safety, but you’d have to be cautious of not disrupting the root zone. Not only does this method take steps to protect the health of your tree, this also protects the birds from predators by making their home difficult to access.

Remember… squirrels and cats can climb trees!

The next best option is to suspend the birdhouse from a branch with cordage that can expand as the tree grows. This would require that you loosen the cordage as the tree grows. We recommend checking the wraps at least once per year to ensure they aren’t fraying or breaking down, and to ensure they aren’t girdling the tree branch. While you’re at it, you can also clean out the birdhouse.

Birds generally don’t reuse nests, so your birdhouse will have more visitors if it is kept clean! While not all nests are used for breeding, it is safest to clean birdhouses out by mid-August to ensure you’re not disrupting a nest of new birds, but there are exceptions. Mass Audubon has a great guide for cleaning birdhouses.

If you are unable to avoid affixing a birdhouse to the trunk of the tree, use stainless steel or a galvanized threaded rod to attach the structure to the tree. To do this, drill into the tree with a ship auger to the depth of the bolt, then insert the bolt and attach the birdhouse. Be very careful not to damage the bark or cambium surrounding the drill hole.

When in doubt, contact an arborist. They can help you identify the trees in your yard, as well as provide guidance on how best to avoid disrupting the root zone if you decide to install a post for your birdhouse.

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