Forest & Bird » Native Land Animals

Nesting Box Specifications to Suit Native Birds

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5 posts)
  • Started 4 years ago
  1. Peter Alexander
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    We have an area on our property (of approximately 2000 sq metres) that we are steadily converting into native bush. Thankfully, we already have a good coverage of canopy trees that are of a height of around the 40 foot (plus) mark, and are now concentrating on introducing a sub-canopy layer of Five Fingers, Lancewood, and such like. We already have Tuis, Bellbirds, Moreporks visting us, but I would like to attract smaller native birds to live "in" the bush area that we are establishing.

    I would like to introduce a good number of nesting boxes in this bush area, and are about to start building them myself. Can anyone please give me some guidance as to the size of the hole I should be drilling as the entrance hole for birds to go in and out through, to suit various native birds that may use these boxes.

    Can you please indicate "what" native birds may use such boxes, and the corresponding hole diameter that I should be using to attract the given bird. Thank you.

    Thank you for your help with this project.

    Kind Regards,

    Peter Alexander

    P.S. We live at an altitude of around 500 metres above sea level, inland from Napier towards the Tararua Ranges.

    Posted 4 years ago #
  2. Kaipara
    User Profile

    Hi Peter,

    The size of nest box apertures is critical to what species will nest there and is also the subject of research by zoologists. I don't know any sizes off-hand, but a search of the internet with a few keywords like nest box and opening size etc might get some useful results. Basically the larger the hole, the larger the bird ! From starling to kaka ! Many native species, especially the smaller native species such as Grey Warbler or Tomtit, just won't use them because they prefer to make their own style nest, but species that prefer cavity nests such as rosellas, kakariki, kaka etc might do so.
    The trouble is it is very difficult to exclude an unwanted species from using a box. Eg a rosella may use the same size entry hole as a kakariki, and a sulphur crested cockatoo might use the same as a kaka, or a starling or myna, may use the same size as a more valued native species. You might find it best to just trial a few different sizes and see what settles in them.
    Also, it's very important to have excellent pest control of rats, stoats and possums taking place at the same time, or all you are doing is providing targets for these pests to colonise or predate the eggs, chicks and adult birds.
    Hope this helps

    Posted 4 years ago #
  3. auckland anne
    User Profile

    I was just about to suggest that local DoC might know, because of their work at places like Boundary Stream, but then I remembered something about the DoC in Napier leaving there. So I suggest you might like to contact your nearest F&B branches - there's one in Napier (the contact is on this website) and another in Hastings-Havelock North. You might find there's others live fairly near you who might help out.
    My brother-in-law lives down in Napier/Greenmeadows and they've seen a large increase in native birds round and about town, especially bellbirds, thanks presumably to pest control in the nearby hill/bush like the Tararuas. He was similarly talking to me recently about wanting to build some bird boxes in his garden bush. And I'm fairly sure he's a F&B member - so like I say, contact the local branches of F&B and you just never know!!

    Posted 4 years ago #
  4. carlw
    User Profile

    This should answer all questions:

    Many birds around the world will use a nest box. Most of the New Zealand's native birds, however, prefer their own nest making. Some nests are intricately woven and hang from branches like the nests of the grey warbler and silvereye. The fantail’s nest is like a small cup made with grasses and moss, bound together with cobwebs and lined with feathers. The Stitchbird will nest in holes in trees but may use a nest box. However, they live on predator free islands and are not likely to be seen in the back yard. Bellbird and Tui nests are made with twigs and fibres and lined with feathers and fine grasses and are usually placed in fork of a tree hidden from view. The kingfisher uses or makes a hole in a bank or tree, while the welcome swallow makes its nest of mud under the eves of a house or bridge or some other structure. Morepork use a hollow in a tree but will use other places that are well camouflaged. But the little owl may use a nest box. These birds were introduced from Europe early in the 1900’s.

    Other introduced birds, like the thrush and blackbird, may use an open type nesting box. These birds, however, usually build a new nest for each clutch of eggs. The blackbird's nest is lined with grass and leaves, while the thrush's nest has a smooth lining of mud or mud mixed with rotten wood.
    Mallard ducks have also been know to use a nest box and some acclimatization societies have built nest boxes in areas frequented by ducks.

    Below is a list of birds that may use a nest box. Note that all are introduced birds.
    Bird Type of nestbox/hole size
    Blackbird open box type
    House Sparrow 33mm hole
    Little Owl 100mm hole or open type
    Mallard 150mm hole above water level
    Myna 70mm hole
    Starling 42 mm hole
    Stock Dove 200mm hole
    Thrush open type box

    Posted 3 years ago #
  5. auckland anne
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    Out on Tiri they have nesting boxes used by little blue penguins, and I'm pretty sure DoC has put nesting boxes for some of the other native birds like stitchbird

    Posted 3 years ago #

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