If you have a broadband connection, for inspiration see some webcamera views inside birdhouses, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/
Before making a birdhouse, review the information provided by Cornell ( https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/right-bird-right-house/) and choose a species that suits where you live. Then download the plan (a pdf file) for the birdhouse for that species. Cornell's plans are much better than those in the simple table below.
The inside should not be painted, because fledglings can't crawl from the nest to the entrance hole if the surface is too smooth. Some builders saw horizontal cuts on the inside surface of the panel that has the entrance hole.
Do not provide a dowel for perching. They are helpful to predators.
The figure given in the table for the height of the entrance hole is the distance in inches from the bottom of the hole to the bottom of the cavity.
The links in the species column are mostly to plans provided by the Ornithology Lab at Cornell.
(dimensions in inches)
|Entrance hole||Height above
ground in feet
|Black-capped chickadee||4 by 4||6–8||4–6||1½||6–10|
|Tufted titmouse||4 by 4||8–10||6–8||1¹⁄₈||6–15|
|Eastern bluebird||5 by 5||8–10||6||1½||5–10|
|House finch||6 by 6||8–10||4||2||8–12|
|Screech||8 by 8||12–15||9–12||3||10–30|
|Saw-whet||6 by 6||10–12||9–10||2½||12–20|
|Barn||10 by 18||15–18||4||6||12–18|
|White-breasted||4 by 4||8–10||6–8||1¼||5–20|
|Brown-headed||2 by 3||8–10||6–8||1||5–20|
|Violet-green swallow||5 by 5||4–6||4–6||1½||10–15|
|Tree swallow||5 by 5||6–8||4–6||1½||10–15|
|Purple martin||6 by 6||6||1||15–20||0|
|Downy||4 by 4||8–10||6–8||1¼||6–20|
|Hairy||6 by 6||12–15||9–12||1½||12–20|
|Northern flicker||7 by 7||16–18||14–16||2½||6–20|
|Red-headed||6 by 6||12–15||9–12||2||12–20|
|House||4 by 4||6–8||4–6||1½||6–10|
Chimney swifts (Chaetura pelagica) are a special case as they enter the nesting cavity through the top. A birdhouse for chimney swifts is a hollow tower. For guidance on constructing one, see chimneyswifts.org.
The following species nest on platforms, not in enclosed cavities. A predator shield should be placed around the trunk of the tree or pole supporting a platform nest.
|Robin||6 by 8||6–15|
|Barn Swallow||6 by 6||10–15|
|Black or Eastern Phoebe||6 by 6||8|
|Osprey||3 feet by 3 feet to
4 feet by 4 feet with
2 inch by 6 inch edging
|15–20. There must be no trees higher than the ospreys’ platform
in the area around their nest.
To accomplish this, either clear trees or raise the platform.
If you erect birdhouses, please consider joining the Nestwatchprogram.
Renè and Christyna M. Laubach.
The Backyard Birdhouse Book; Building Nestboxes and Creating Natural Habitats.
Storey Books, 1999.
Building a Backyard Bird Habitat.
Copyright © 2000, 2001 Sizes, Inc. All rights reserved.
Last revised: 4 January 2021.