A nest box, also spelled nestbox, is a man-made enclosure provided for animals to nest in. Nest boxes are most frequently utilized for birds, in which case they are also called birdhouses, but some mammalian species may also use them. Placing nestboxes or roosting boxes may also be used to help maintain populations of particular species in an area. The nest box was invented by the British conservationist Charles Waterton in the early 19th century to encourage more birdlife on the wildfowl and nature reserve he set up on his estate.
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Nest boxes are usually wooden, though some for birds are made from a mixture of wood and concrete, called woodcrete. Metal nest boxes are also marketed, but these are generally unsuitable for outdoor use, as they can overheat in sun, and provide no insulation to cold.
Many nest boxes are cuboid and have a sloping roof, with a hinged top, side or front to provide access for cleaning, bird ringing or, when used for domesticated species, to give the breeder access to the young. Boxes may either have an entrance hole or be open-fronted. Some nest boxes can be highly decorated and complex, sometimes mimicking human houses or other structures. They may also contain nest box cameras so that use of, and activity within, the box can be monitored.
Different sizes of nest-box suit different species of birds with very small boxes attracting wrens and treecreepers and very large ones attracting ducks and owls. Seasonally removing old nest material and parasites is important if they are to be successfully re-used.
Blue Tits, Great Tits and Tree Sparrows have been shown to prefer woodcrete boxes to wooden. Birds nesting in woodcrete sites had earlier clutches, a shorter incubation period, and more reproductive success, perhaps because the synthetic nests were warmer than their wooden counterparts.
Bat boxes differ from bird nest-boxes in typical design, with the larger opening on the underside of the box, and are more often referred to as roost boxes, although in regards to the rearing of young, they serve the same purpose. Threatened bat species can be locally supported with the provision of appropriately placed bat-boxes. Bats are a means of natural mosquito and insect control in some parts of the world. A single bat can eat 500 to 1,000 mosquitoes per night as well as other insect pests. Directions for making the open bottom bat houses for small and large colonies, as well as locations to purchase them are available on the internet. Bat houses are an ecologically friendly way of controlling mosquitoes as pesticides mostly kill the mosquitoes' predators rather than mosquitoes. Australian Bat Box projects have been running for over 12 years in particular at the Organ Pipes National Park. Currently there are 42 roost boxes using the "Stebbings Design" which have peaked at 280 bats roosting in them. The biggest problem with roosting boxes of any kind is the ongoing maintenance; problems include boxes falling down, wood deteriorating, and pests such as ants, the occasional rat, possums, and spiders.
Nest boxes are marketed not only for birds and bats, but also for butterflies and other mammals, especially arboreal ones such as squirrels and opossums. Depending on the animal, these boxes are used for roosting, breeding, or both. Or, as in the case with butterflies, hibernation. Wasps may build their nests inside a nest box intended for other animals, and may exclude the intended species.
- "Charles Waterton (1782 - 1865)". Retrieved 2013-12-16.
- García-Navas, Vicente; Arroyo, Luis; Sanz, Juan José; Díaz, Mario (2008). "Effect of nestbox type on occupancy and breeding biology of tree sparrows Passer montanus in central Spain" (PDF). Ibis 150: 356–364. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.2008.00799.x.
- "Bats and Bat Houses". Mosquito Abatement District-Davis Headquarters, Kaysville, UT. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- McAvoy, Gene. "Hendry County Horticulture News: Bats Eat Mosquitoes as Well as Numerous Garden Pests". University of Florida; Cooperative Extension Service. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- "Single chamber bat house (wall mounted)". Bat Conservation International. Archived from the original on 2007-10-31. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- Brown, Carla. "Why I Built A Bat House". National Wildlife Federation. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- Boleky, Vaughan (2005-2006). "Why Are Bat Houses Important?". Organization for Bat Conservation. Archived from the original on 2007-11-10. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- Nina Bergström. "Fixa fint för fjärilarna", Expressen, 16 June 2011. Retrieved 28 June 2011. (In Swedish)
Media related to Birdhouses at Wikimedia Commons
- Nest box page from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
- Nest box plans: bluebirds, purple martins and others.
- How to build a nest box.
- Birds Australia Information Sheet 5: Nestboxes for Natives PDF download
- Rob McDonald, "Birdhouses," Southern Spaces, 12 July 2006. http://southernspaces.org/2006/birdhouses