The odds are stacked against baby birds. They must learn to fly, feed and develop predator awareness to survive leaving the nest. According to the RSPB, only 37 per cent of blue tits make it through their first year of life.
In addition, around 90 per cent of the world’s birds are monogamous, sticking to one mate at a time. But some birds are having real trouble reproducing. So, this spring, wildlife experts are urging the public to make ‘love nests’ for visiting birds.
One in four UK bird species is under serious threat, according to the latest Birds of Conservation Concern report, and climate change is wreaking havoc with breeding patterns. With some eggs hatching before insect-based bird food is available, infant birds have a hard time surviving their early days.
Sean McMenemy, founder of Ark Wildlife, says: “Between the loss of woodland, tidier gardens and modern, insulated houses, our poor old birds are left with far fewer nesting opportunities. Hole-nesting birds such as blue tits will particularly appreciate a suitable nest box. Open-fronted nest boxes will attract even more species, including robins and blackbirds.”
He adds: “Feeding birds is rewarding enough, but nothing compares to watching a little bird take its first flight, especially if it’s from a nest box you put up yourself. And if we give birds more places to nest and provide healthy bird food, they’ll mate more, which will help to slow the alarming decline in bird species.”
How to create a love nest for birds
Just like people have preferences about where to go on dates and raise a family, so do birds. Some, like sparrows and blue tits, favour nest boxes with small entrances. Others, such as robins and wrens, prefer open-fronted nest boxes. Then there are birds like starlings and woodpeckers who need larger holes in their nest boxes.
McMenemy details the steps for making and placing your nest box:
- Choose weatherproof timber, at least 15mm thick
- Use a plan like this RSPB one to cut the wood to size
- Assemble the box, using galvanised screws
- Cut the right sized hole for the birds you want to attract
- Place the nest box on a wall or tree (2-4m high for most birds)
Different bird species approach romance in different ways. House sparrows, for instance, often remain faithful to each other for life, while starlings usually keep partners for just one season. However, they are clearly having trouble breeding as both feature on the red conservation list from the British Trust for Ornithology.
Most geese and swans, as well as barn owls and some eagles, mate for life. It can take a lot of time and energy to find a mate so large migratory birds save their energy for their long journeys. Larger birds’ chicks also take longer to incubate and grow, so these birds don’t waste time looking for new partners. As a plus, the longer that the breeding pairs stay together, the better they can care for their young, providing a much-needed boost to bird numbers.
Images by Sean McMenemy