A well-designed perch or bird house can provide birds with a safe and pleasurable place to nest, roost, and raise their young. When creating a perch, it’s important to consider the needs of the specific birds you hope to attract, as different species have different requirements for entrance hole size, interior space, placement, height, and more. With careful planning and construction, you can create an inviting avian abode that becomes a beloved part of your backyard ecosystem. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover all the key factors to weigh when designing perches to entice local birds to take up residence.

Choosing the Right Location

Choosing the optimal location is one of the most important considerations when installing a perch. Here are some tips on picking the ideal spot:

Sun Exposure

  • Most birds prefer perches with some sun exposure, as it helps keep the interior warm and dry. However, avoid excessive afternoon sun, which can cause overheating.
  • Consider sun patterns through the seasons when choosing a location. Deciduous trees that shade the perch in summer but allow sun in winter can be ideal.

Protection from Predators and Weather

  • Sites protected from prevailing winds and rain, such as under eaves or overhangs, are preferred.
  • Position the perch at least 5-10 feet off the ground to safeguard from predators.
  • Avoid locations near bird feeders, as these can attract predators.


  • Perches should be accessible for monitoring, maintenance and cleaning.
  • However, do not place them in high traffic areas, as birds prefer privacy.
  • Install perches on sturdy poles or trees allows birds to inspect entries easily.


  • Birds like being able to survey their surroundings from the perch.
  • Locations with a clear vantage point of food, water and perching sites are ideal.
  • Avoid areas with dense vegetation right around the perch entrance.

Swallow-Safe Areas

  • If attracting swallows, place mud nests in areas protected from rain so they don’t dissolve. Under eaves is ideal.
  • For barn swallows, site near open fields and water where they forage.

By factoring in all these elements, you can zero in on the optimal location to install your perch.

Perch Height

Installing your bird house at the proper height is crucial for attracting species and ensuring their safety. Here are some tips:

  • Mount most boxes 8-12 feet high on wooden posts or tree trunks.
  • Avoid swaying branches that may dislodge nests in windy conditions.
  • For birds that nest in cavities close to the ground, like bluebirds, install boxes 4-5 feet high.
  • To deter predators, mount houses for small birds like chickadees at least 5 feet high.
  • For martins and swallows, place houses 12-20 high on poles with predator guards.
  • Ensure the location allows easy access for monitoring and cleaning the box.
  • Face entrance holes away from prevailing winds and direct sun or rain.
  • Incorporate a predator guard to prevent access from below.

Proper height is key to creating a safe and welcoming perch that suits each species’ preferences. Follow these guidelines tailored to the birds you wish to attract.

Choosing Construction Materials

The right materials will help your perch last for years while providing natural insulation. Here are the best options:

Wood Types

  • Cedar and redwood resist rot and insects thanks to natural oils. Avoid treated lumber.
  • Pine is inexpensive but will need a protective stain or paint.
  • For a natural look, use a pre-stained timber that blends into surroundings.


  • Galvanized steel resists corrosion and is very durable. It requires paint for aesthetics.
  • Aluminum is long-lasting but can overheat in strong sun. Use only with good ventilation.
  • Copper is naturally antimicrobial but expensive. It develops a unique patina over time.

Concretes and Ceramics

  • Concrete must be thick and specially formulated to prevent cracking.
  • Ceramics like terra cotta are attractive but fragile. Use only for covered areas.
  • Ensure rough surfaces allow birds to grip. Smooth materials may require perches.


  • PVC is affordable but degrades over time in sunlight. Look for UV stabilized types.
  • Composite plastics made from recycled materials resist weather but can look artificial.
  • Ensure all plastics allow air flow and drainage to prevent condensation.

Choose pest-resistant, well-insulated and durable materials suited to your climate. Prioritize natural options for the healthiest habitat.

Entrance Hole Size and Placement

The entrance hole is one of the most important details that determine which birds will occupy your perch. Follow these guidelines:

Hole Diameter

  • The hole must be sized correctly for the species. Too large risks predators, too small deters entry.
  • As a general rule, a hole should be 1-1 1/2 inches for small birds, 1 1/2-2 inches for medium birds, and 2 1/2-3 inches for larger woodpeckers.
  • Oval holes 1 3/8 x 2 1/4 inches suit bluebirds well.
  • For wrens, make the opening a narrow 1-1 1/8 inches.

Height of Hole

  • The hole should be placed 4-5 inches from the perch floor to prevent fledglings from prematurely exiting.
  • Exceptions are purple martins at 6-8 inches high and woodpeckers at 2 1/2 inches high.
  • Drill entrance holes on sides under the eave or roof overhang whenever possible.

Number of Holes

  • Multiple compartments each with one entrance hole are ideal for cavity nesters.
  • Groups of gourd houses or tubes for martins should have uniform, evenly spaced holes.

Match the hole precisely to your target species. Careful measurements here will pay off with happy tenants!

Interior Space and Perches

The interior dimensions and features should also be tailored to prospective tenants:

Floor Area

  • Check recommended dimensions for each species. As examples, chickadees need a 4×4 inch floor, bluebirds 4×5 inches.
  • Floor area should be no more than 50% larger than needed. Too cavernous and birds may reject.
  • Ensure cleanout access panels meet minimum size requirements.

Interior Perches

  • Insert a perch below entrance holes to allow young birds to land before exiting.
  • Small blocks or horizontal strips of wood work well. Ensure spacing allows waste to fall through.
  • Larger perches can be added across the width of larger houses.
  • Rough surfaces are better for gripping. Avoid any Chemical or toxic treated wood.

Drainage and Ventilation

  • Drill weep holes along the underside to allow rain drainage and air flow.
  • Add mesh panels or slots if constructing solid-walled houses.
  • Open bottoms or slatted floors promote air circulation and drying.

Fine tuning the interior to match each species’ preferences takes your perch from generic to custom.

Special Features to Attract Specific Birds

Incorporating customized features will encourage desired species to visit your perch:

For Bluebirds

  • Add a predator guard below the entrance hole.
  • Face hole toward open fields where they forage.
  • Paint the exterior a natural blue shade with nontoxic paint.

For Woodpeckers

  • Use roughened debarked wood and avoid smooth interiors.
  • Add suet holders mounted near the entrance.
  • Ensure strong mounting to withstand drumming.

For Wrens

  • Install multiple small perches rather than one large box.
  • Line interiors with fresh mosses and grasses annually.
  • Add a side-mounted feeding station stocked with live mealworms.

For Owls and Hawks

  • Choose a box design specifically made for raptors.
  • Line the bottom with an inch of wood shavings for nesting material.
  • Mount at least 15-20 feet up on a sturdy tree away from busy areas.

Accommodating special needs ensures your handcrafted habitat is enticing to each species.

Protecting Against Predators

Discouraging predators is key to safeguarding perch residents. Use these effective deterrents:

Guard Against Squirrels

  • Install cone-shaped baffles below mounting poles to prevent climbing.
  • Use metal predator guards or collars to block holes.
  • Apply slippery lubricants like Vaseline or vegetable oil to poles.

Stop Snakes and Raccoons

  • Position boxes at least 5-10 feet above ground and away from trees.
  • Mount pole boxes onhardware cloth cages or baskets.
  • Remove any nearby branches or vegetation that allow access.

Prevent Hawks and Crows

  • Site houses near dense trees or shrubs to obstruct aerial attacks.
  • Install the entrance hole on the side under an eave or overhang.
  • Scare predators away with decoys like owl replicas or aluminum foil pans.

Deter Cats

  • Surround posts with a PVC pipe or sheet metal collar 8 feet up.
  • Plant thorny shrubs around the base of the pole to block access.

With the right safeguards specific to common intruders, your perch will remain predator-free.

Size, Space, and Placement for Multi-Family Houses

For perches meant to host groups of birds like martins or swallows, follow these additional tips:

House Dimensions

  • For martins, ensure houses are at least 6 x 12 x 6 inches for Eastern species or 8 x 8 x 8 inches for Westerns.
  • Allow 12-18 linear inches per apartment for purple martins to prevent crowding.
  • Swallow condos should have compartments 6 x 6 x 8 inches. About 24 compartments is ideal.

Inter-House Spacing

  • Space martin houses about 20-30 feet apart, either on a cross arm or individual poles.
  • Swallow condos can be within a few feet on longer beams but avoid direct contact.
  • Position each compartment entrance hole at least 4 inches apart.

Pole and Mounting Specs

  • Use steel pipes at least 1.5 inches diameter mounted in concrete footings. Bury 3 feet for stability.
  • Elevate houses at least 12 feet above structures, 15-20 feet in open areas.
  • Add cleanout doors, rain covers, winch systems, and ventilation as needed.

Following the special guidelines for colony nesters will ensure safe, thriving and productive populations.

Maintaining Your Perch

Upkeep is essential for your perch to continue attracting avian tenants year after year:

Annual Late-Winter Cleaning

  • Wear gloves and a dust mask when cleaning abandoned nests, stuck debris, and droppings.
  • Remove old nesting material and scrape out cavities. Avoid chemical cleaners.
  • Soak in a vinegar-water solution, then let boxes dry fully before reassembling if needed.

Pre-Season Refresh

  • Apply fresh water sealant or a natural wood stain if needed. Avoid treating occupied boxes.
  • Replace any damaged or rotten wood, rusted hardware, frayed ropes etc.
  • Remove any cobwebs, dust, or feathers from the previous season.

Mid-Season Monitoring

  • Quietly check boxes weekly when active for pests, leaks, and other issues. Avoid disturbing nests.
  • Remove parasites and nest competitors like house sparrows. Registered products can help if needed.
  • Ensure predator guards and deterrents remain intact. Replace as needed.

With proper care and maintenance, your perch can continue enticing wild tenants for decades to come!

Common Problems and Solutions

Even well-designed perches can sometimes run into issues. Here are solutions to common problems:

Perch Remains Vacant

  • It may be sited in an unsuitable area. Try moving to a better location.
  • The entrance maybe too large or small for target species. Enlarge or baffle holes as needed.
  • House sparrows may be invading and keeping other birds out. Remove nesting materials to dissuade them.

Water Leaking Into House

  • Improve roof overhang above the entrance hole. Add a canopy if needed.
  • Drill extra drainage holes along the underside and walls.
  • Seal any cracks and gaps in the external structure with caulk.

Infestations of Bird Mites or Lice

  • Remove all nesting material at end of season and wash interiors to disinfect.
  • Apply a licensed avian insecticide formulated for roosting spaces. Follow instructions carefully.
  • Offer fresh nesting materials like straw or cotton each season. Discard old ones.

House Too Hot

  • If overheating, reposition away from afternoon sun or add shade with a canopy.
  • Improve ventilation by enlarging wire mesh panels and weep holes.
  • Repaint dark exteriors with a lighter color to reduce solar heat gain.

Diagnosing and resolving any issues quickly will restore your perch to an appealing habitat.


What is the ideal birdhouse depth?

The proper depth depends on the species, but 5-8 inches deep allows most birds enough room. Leave at least 2-4 inches above the expected nest height for fledglings.

How do I clean bird droppings out of a house?

Carefully scrape out debris with a non-metal tool. Avoid harsh chemicals. Disinfect boxes by lightly misting with a 10% bleach solution. Rinse and let dry fully before replacing nesting materials.

What is a good birdhouse floor material?

Untreated wood is ideal for easy cleaning. Alternatively, a wire mesh floor allows droppings to fall through while retaining nesting material.

Should I fill a birdhouse with anything?

Nest boxes can simply be left empty. Alternatively, provide 2-4 inches of wood shavings, straw, or sawdust appropriate for the species. Don’t use fabric, sponge, or synthetic stuffing.

How often do birdhouses need to be cleaned?

Thoroughly clean boxes out after each nesting season when birds have finished fledging young. Also do spot checks mid-season for problems.


Installing specialized bird perching boxes tailored to your backyard visitors does require some careful planning and effort. But the rewards of seeing avian families flourish in the safe havens you’ve created are well worth it. Follow these guidelines on placement, dimensions, materials, and upkeep to craft durable, appealing abodes your feathered friends will appreciate. Include special features to entice the desired species to move into the vacation home you’ve built just for them. With a well-designed perch and a little luck, you’ll have charming new neighbors flocking your way each spring.

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