Love is in the air – time to put up nesting boxes

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With Valentine’s Day on the way, Graham Appleton, from the BTO in Thetford, reminds us that it’s time to put up a new nesting box

We have just bought a new nesting box for the garden and plan to put it up before the end of National Nest Box Week, which runs from14 to 21 February every year.

Unlike most boxes, which are designed to accommodate tits, this bigger box will hopefully attract starlings. There is already a pair nesting in the roof of the bungalow across the road, and there is usually some competition for space, so we are hoping that it will be occupied. Starlings collect hair to line their nests from the horses’ field on the other side of the river and this is where they will go to find plenty of leather-jackets and grubs for their four or five chicks, once the eggs hatch.

If you have starlings in your roof, providing a nesting box may be a good way of getting a lie-in in the morning.

A nicely appointed box, affixed to the side of the house or a nearby tree, could persuade the noisy birds that wake you at 4 o’clock on a summer’s morning to desert the roof-space above your bedroom.

Figures from a mixture of BTO-led surveys suggest that breeding numbers have fallen by over 80 per cent in the last 40 years, so there would have been five times as many starling nests in your town or village in the 1960s.

The species has been red-listed as a species of conservation concern, in recognition of this rapid decline. This does not mean that starlings are going to become extinct any time soon but it does mean that they are worthy of a little bit of support.

Nest boxes provide a wonderful insight into the lives of birds. I well remember sitting at the window of my grandparents’ house and watching adult blue tits ferrying caterpillars to their young birds. With fruit trees and local beech trees within 100 metres, there seemed to be plenty of natural food around in the 1960s. The blue tits became very tolerant and, if we sat quietly, they would continue to commute to and fro, even when we were sitting in the garden.

Tradition has it that birds pair for the breeding season on Valentine’s Day, which is why the BTO launches National Nest Box Week on this date every year.

Some birds, such as robins, may well have built their nests somewhat earlier but for most species this does seem like a good time to start to think about the coming of spring.

If you want to learn more about providing homes for your feathered neighbours you can either visit the BTO website http://www.bto.org/nnbw/index.htm or contact our partners, Jacobi Jayne, on 0800 072 0130 to be sent an information pack.