Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Homeless Birds need a Helping Hand

UK Households can help

Wednesday 14 February marks the start of National Nest Box Week, the time when the BTO asks people to spare a thought for homeless birds such as Blue Tits and House Sparrows. National Nest Box Week provides a perfect introduction both to the world of nesting birds and to bird conservation. Each year, hundreds of people make new boxes for their Blue Tits and other garden tenants and thousands buy boxes to put up. This year, thanks to publicity from the BBC, we hope to massively increase these figures and to collect information on just how successful people are at attracting 'first-time buyers' to move into new homes.

National Nest Box Week runs from 14 to 21 February and is organised by the BTO, together with the founding sponsor, Jacobi Jayne & Company. This particular week was chosen because, according to tradition, Valentine's Day is the day birds start pairing up before settling down to nest. NNBW first started in 1997, when BTO scientists began to worry about the lack of nesting places for birds, due to the removal of old trees and repair work to our houses.

This year, as part of Breathing Places, the BBC is producing a special programme, presented by Chris Packham, within the Nature's Calendar series. BBC local radio stations will be organising special nest box building events with their Breathing Places partners. At each event, 200 nest boxes will be given away free to those willing to make them.A plank can make a difference - how to make a nest box out of a plank - http://www.bto.org/nnbw/building.htm

"Nest boxes are incredibly easy to build or buy and can make a huge difference to the lives of our garden birds. In return you get the enjoyment of watching birds raise a family. Blue Tits love them, but depending on where you are in the country you could get all manner of species moving in", says Jeff Baker, the BTO's organiser of National Nest Box Week.

Not only are people being asked to provide nest boxes, they will also be encouraged to register their nest boxes on the BTO's web site http://www.bto.org and to report on which species move in and whether they breed successfully. Simple information about where each box is positioned and the garden in which it is located will help BTO scientists to give even better advice on the provision of homes for birds in the future (People who register their nest boxes on the BTO web pages, as part of the Nest Box Challenge, will be asked to provide simple information about their gardens and nest boxes. Then, as the season progresses, each observer will be able to report on which species move in and whether their birds breed successfully. It will be interesting to see whether boxes are more successful in different types of gardens, whether different species use nest boxes in different areas of the country, how much later nest building starts in the north of Britain than in the south etc.).Open the Box - and let the BTO know what is happening inside (Care needs to be taken when looking inside nest boxes. Please see guidance notes on the BTO website.)

"By putting up a nest box in your garden, you can provide an important nesting site for birds as diverse as Blue Tits and Tawny Owls. You might even be able to help declining species such as Starling, House Sparrow and Spotted Flycatcher. The exciting development this year is that BBC funding has enabled the BTO to set up an on-line project to find out how many new boxes are occupied and by which species. By taking a careful peek inside every week or so, people will be able to count just how many young birds are raised in these new boxes " says Dr Dave Leech, Head of the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

Can anyone beat this?

We are not just interested in hearing about new nest boxes. Old boxes are just as good. We are keen for people to register as many boxes as they can now, so that we can work out what proportion are used each year and by which species of birds. Can anyone beat the oldest bird box we know of in Britain - put up in 1949 and still going strong?More than 60 species of birds have been recorded using nest boxes. Most commonly, Blue and Great Tits, House Sparrows and Starlings will use the typical round hole design, while Robins, Blackbirds and Spotted Flycatchers prefer open-fronted boxes.

Copies of the The BTO Nestbox Guide can be obtained for £8.99 (including p&p) from Jacobi Jayne & Co, Freepost 1155, Herne Bay, Kent, CT6 7BR or call Freephone 0800 072 0130. An information pack about nest boxes is also available from this address. The official website of National Nest Box Week is http://www.livingwithbirds.com

There will be a vast amount of new information available on BBC and BTO websites – http://www.bbc.co.uk/breathingplaces and http://www.bto.org

Nature's Calendar is presented by Chris Packham and features some of the best places in the UK to see wildlife. A special programme is scheduled for 7.30pm on 12 February (BBC2). See http://www.bbc.co.uk/naturescalendar

Breathing Places aims to inspire millions of people to get involved with nature, through hands on participation. The campaign aims to build an 'active' community via a series of simple and high impact programme-led outreach activities. Everything from exploring and enjoying nature, to planting trees and putting up nest boxes, to transforming the places where you live (for people & wildlife). See http://www.bbc.co.uk/breathingplaces

4th July 2014