To attract wild birds to your New Zealand backyard you need to satisfy four basic
requirements. The birds need food, water, shelter, and nesting sites. The first
two are fairly easy to supply but it is providing the shelter and nesting sites
that many people have trouble with or overlook completely. Without access to
shelter and nests the birds can only treat your backyard as a "restaurant" where
they can spend part of each day until their hunger is satisfied. Providing
nesting sites and shelter from bad weather will encourage the birds to change
their perception of your backyard from a food source to a home where they will
spend all, or most of their time instead of just flying in for food and then
The best time to put up nest boxes
Many people put up nest boxes in the early spring so that they are ready for the
breeding season, but a better time is to do it in the autumn or better still,
leave them up all
through the year.
If the boxes are available during the autumn and winter they will provide
shelter from storms or cold weather, this not only gives protection to the birds but will
increase your chances of them returning to their "safe havens" when breeding
time comes in the spring.
Remember that the birds breeding is determined by the weather so a warm winter
or cooler summer will mean that the birds will nest before or after their normal
The best advice is to put up the nest boxes as soon as you have them available
and leave them up all through the year.
The best position for nest boxes
The idea of a nest box is to provide a comfortable, safe environment
which is protected from the weather and predators. It may seem that this is an
impossible position to find in most New Zealand gardens but with a bit of
thought most people will find many locations that will suffice. It must be
remembered that in nature the birds also find it hard to find such locations so
they can adapt if the perfect position cant be found.
Another very important consideration, in choosing the perfect location is the
ability for you, the humans, to be able to observe the nest box because after
all we cant loose site of the reason for erecting them in the first place and
that is our desire to watch the birds.
Place the nest box facing away from the prevailing wind, rain and, if
possible, direct sunlight. Ideally they should be reasonably high of the ground
to deter predators. A fence or a pole is a better option than a tree if you
think cats are going to be a problem as they will find it harder to climb.
Although many birds prefer to have their nests tucked away and hidden behind
shrubs or bushes you need to ensure they have a clear flight path to the entry
Try to position the nest box away from your feeding stations and also other nest
boxes, birds visiting the feeder will disturb the nesting birds.
What is described above is the perfect location for a nest box but remember
that birds are individuals and can be found nesting in the weirdest of places,
so really you can try any location if you have some spare boxes and you may be
surprised by the results.
Protecting the nest box from Predators
In New Zealand gardens cats are probably the most common predator that
the nesting bird will have and luckily it is fairly easy to protest the birds
The location of the nest box is the most important factor in deterring cats from
harming the birds. Cats cant climb vertical fences so high up on a traditional
1.8m high timber fence is a good place to mount your nest box. If this is not
available then mounting the box on a waratah standard or pole is another
excellent choice. Ensure that the box cant be reached by the cat jumping from a
nearby tree or the ground.
Rats and to a lesser degree mice are the only other common predator that you
need worry about in New Zealand and these can be controlled with the use of bait
stations around the garden.
Managing a nest box
Once a year you need to clean out your nesting boxes. The best time to
do this is in the mid autumn when there will be little chance of finding a bird
sitting on eggs.
After first checking that the box is defiantly unoccupied, remove the contents
of the box and burn or put on the compost bin. Be careful when handling the old
nesting material because birds have many different parasites living on them. It
is a good idea to finish the cleanout by pouring a jug full of boiling water
over the inside of each box to kill any parasites.
How Many Nest Boxes?
There is no hard and fast rule as too how many nest boxes can be put into a
specific area. It is best to start with 2 or 3 different types and see how you
go in the first year. Select nesting boxes that are suitable for the bird
species that are in your garden at present.