Wildlife in the Woodlot – Nest Boxes

Tree Swallow & Nest Box

Being close to nature and having wildlife in our woodlot is a very important part of the enjoyment of owning and managing a small part of the forest. There are no words to describe the feeling of seeing or being near a wild creature of the forest. Those of you who have this feeling know what I am talking about. But managing for “Wildlife” can be a complex process of decision-making and compromises. I expect that many people who read this blog will share this interest in managing for wildlife in the forest.   With even a little information you can begin to understand some of the things that can be done to help attract or keep certain species in your woodlot. Simply to say “I want to manage for wildlife.” is frankly too broad of a statement. I hope to write many blogs about wildlife both from the enjoyment aspect, which I want to share with you, and from a management point of view.

(Click on any photo to see a larger image)

Adding nest boxes to your woodlot or back yard can be beneficial to some species of wildlife.

As this is mid winter, perhaps it is a good time to prepare for the coming nesting season of some of our feathers friends. Nest boxes can be a very helpful way to encourage some species to your woodlot or to your back yard. Many of our local species are what we call “cavity nesters” . As this term implies, these are species that build their nest in a cavity space that is safe for them to raise their young. In fact, if they do not find a suitable cavity or some sort of inside space to have their nest they will not be able lay eggs and raise their young. Most cavity nesting birds have no ability to build a nest on a branch or any other external area. They must find a suitable cavity to successfully raise their young.

Nest Boxes need some way to be opened so that they can be cleaned each year after the nesting season.

This is where you come in. You can build and erect suitable nest boxes that many species will take to with great ease. I happen to like tree swallows and I have had good success with putting out boxes for them. The same size box I use for tree swallows has also been used by chickadees and squirrels, both red squirrels and flying squirrels. Nest boxes can be built to sizes that attract many different species of birds or mammals of all sizes. Of course the box has to be placed in suitable habitat as well. You are not going to get Barred owls nesting in a box in the city or in the open but you will if you locate a suitable size box deeper in a more mature forest. Of course I am talking only about the species in my area in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Your species may differ in your region so you will need to know the habits of species in your area.

To help you with designs of nesting boxes, I am attaching a few websites for you to go to find out more. Designs are usually quite simple. All species have their preferred size of box and opening. The opening size is quite critical to some species. Here are some websites for you to have look at:



Nest boxes will need only a little care. They must have a way to open so that the old nesting material can be removed after the nesting season. This will reduce the parasites that will affect next years brood. The adults are quite capable of finding new nesting material each year so there is no need to leave the old material in there. The exception might be the owls who use course woody stems for nesting material.

This box has nesting material that is moss. This is an indication that it was used by chickadees. It needs to be cleaned before spring arrives.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to use the comment box. If you do not want your comments posted on the web just tell me in your comments, as each comment must be submitted to me before they are posted online.  I hope you find this blog useful and enjoyable. Your comments and questions may help me provide even better information in the future. There are many interesting things to see in Watts Tree Farm throughout the year. I am happy to share them with you.

Until next time, keep safe and well.