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Nov 1st, 2020

What's The Difference Between a Nestbox and Birdhouse?

Nestbox vs. Birdhouse

A nestbox is a structure with a standard design and is primarily intended for a motherbird looking for a place to build her nest, whereas a birdhouse can be used for the same, but can also go beyond that of a standard nestbox and serve as a decorative item or gift. There are a few more differences that are worth mentioning when distinguishing between a nestbox and birdhouse.

  • Nestbox: Used to accommodate any type of mammal, reptile, bird or other, that needs a structure to nest and raise their young. Nestboxes are particularly useful for warmth and safety. Some animals cannot build their own nest, so they rely on nests that were built and previously occupied by other animals. Whether or not an animal is capable of building it's own nest, they need a safe place to build it, such as in-between large rocks, a ledge, thick brush, tree, or a man-made structure. There are many types of animals that build nests other than birds. Examples are insects, turtles, lizards, rats, snakes, crocodiles, dinosaurs, and even fish have all been known to use nests. Additionally, non-migratory animals will seek a place to stay warm during cold winter months, and a nestbox might help them to survive. Nest boxes come in various sizes and shapes. Multi-unit structures are used as a way to promote interactivity among particular species that nest in close proximaty together. Purple Martins require a structure with multiple cavities for a place to congregate and socialize. Without these types of special structures, Purple Martin populations would likely decline.
  • Birdhouse: Can be used for the same purpose as a nestbox, but mainly for birds. Birdhouses go beyond that of an ordinary nestbox, as birdhouses can also be used for decorations and gifts for the holidays. Although the typical birdhouse is traditionally used for the purpose of promoting birdlife, birdhouses have always satisfied consumers with more than just one particular need. Of course, the most obvious is a functional home for birds, but also as a nice decorative item in the yard of a residential home. Decorative birdhouses can be placed on an indoor shelf, on an outdoor table as a rustic ornament, or hung in a garden as a nice way to compliment a colorful background. A decorative birdhouse also makes a great gift during the holidays.

Generally speaking, both a nestbox and birdhouse can serve the same purpose as far as providing birds a safe place to raise their young. In this case, these two terms can be used interchangeably. Nestboxes are typically designed with a square, conservative, and non-decorative look and appeal. They are always designed as a functional structure, or something that is intended for a meaningful purpose. For this reason, it should always have a way to allow for old-nest removal, either through a rear viewing door or a removable side-panel. A nestbox does not have to be cleaned every time an old nest is abandoned, as some birds will re-use the nest. But it's up to you. A functional birdhouse should have the same in most cases, but there's no need for a rear viewing door or removable panel if it's a non-functional or decorative birdhouse.


Nestboxes are always mounted to something that is very secure, either a wall, thick tree trunk, post, or even the ground. It should never be hung. Birdhouses however, can be placed anywhere you like, even hanging from a rope or chain. It really depends on what you want to do with your birdhouse, whether you just want to dress-up your property, or you really want to see a mother and her babies thriving inside. In this case, a little research will go a long ways in helping you determine the most effective method and location to mount your birdhouse.

Wasps - the misunderstood cousin..

Wasps are insects classified in the order of Hymenoptera (suborder of Apocrita, some of which are stinging). They are close cousins to bees. Wasps are hated by most everyone, but they are an important balancing factor in the environment. Like birds, winged insects also need a place to keep warm and safe. You can provide shelter for wasps by creating nesting sites for native bees and predatory wasps.

Your home landscape might be the perfect place to help pollinators. Several factors to consider when promoting bees and wasps are soil, sand, trees, shrubs, grass, masonry, and old nests that have been abandoned. Wasps have the ability to dig, crawl, arrange, and build nests in a number of various unassuming places in a typical residential yard.

Wasps are valuable pollinators, transferring pollen as they visit flowers to drink nectar. It's actually their thirst for sweet liquids that helps to explain why they are misunderstood and generally classified as a nuisance. Yes, their sting hurts, but it's not lethal. And because they are aggressive flying insect that carry venom, wasps make for effective predators that help control the numbers of other pests such as ants, cicadas, spiders, caterpillars and flies. A world without wasps would be a world with a very much larger number of insect pests on our crops and gardens.


Mice and rats both build nests. If you have a tolerance for these critters, there's really no need to help them out as far as providing nest boxes. They are well-suited for building their own nests.


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