Nest Box Challenge

Nest Box ChallengePut up a bird box and join others in the Nest Box Challenge survey. We want to encourage everyone to put up nest boxes in their local area in order to promote and enhance biodiversity and conservation of our breeding birds and wildlife. All you have to do is put a nest box up at your home, school or workplace, register for the Nest Box Challenge and then let us know what happens.

Putting up your nest box is really only half the fun - to get the most out of it, take up the Nest Box Challenge and Carrickfergus Borough Council to monitor the breeding success of birds in our Borough's green spaces. The Nest Box Challenge is part of Carrickfergus Borough Council's 'Blooming Wild' learning campaign to inspire and motivate you to create and care for nature friendly green spaces where you live.

Taking part in Nest Box Challenge

Nest Box Challenge gives you the opportunity to help us learn more about nesting birds in the Borough. Anyone with access to a nest box can take part, all you need to do is register the nest box(es) in your garden or local area and record what's inside at regular intervals during the breeding season.

In order to take part, you simply need to register for the Nest Box Challenge and tell us about the garden or green space in which your box is sited and a bit about the box itself. You will then be able to record details of any birds you see using the box.

To build your own box click here.

Why are we interested in nest boxes and garden birds?

As the countryside becomes more and more developed, so the nation's gardens play an increasingly important role in supporting wildlife populations, providing food, shelter and nesting sites. It is therefore vital that we keep a close eye on wildlife populations in rural, suburban and urban areas, particularly as numbers of several garden bird species, such as House Sparrow and Starling, have fallen in the last few decades.

Gardens are amongst the most intensively watched habitats in the country. By asking anyone with a box to monitor it for Nest Box Challenge, we can build up an incredibly detailed picture of the breeding success of hole-nesting birds across the Borough. The information collected can be used to understand more about why some species are increasing while others are declining, and to help us find out whether warmer weather and the provision of food can make a difference to the number of chicks that birds are able to raise.

How to approach and look in a box: Minimising disturbance to the breeding birds is obviously of utmost importance. Looking inside a box may cause the parents to desert the nest, and so it is important that you take great care when monitoring your nest box. you can tell a lot about what is going on in the box just by watching it from a distance. You will need to be close enough to see what's going on at the entrance to the box, but not too close as this may prevent the birds from entering. You may even be able to watch from the comfort of your own home with the aid of a pair of binoculars.

There are several signs of breeding to look out for:

Nest Box Challenge Birds flying repeatedly in and out of the box
Nest Box Challenge Birds carrying nesting material to the box.
Nest Box Challenge Birds carrying food to the box.
Nest Box Challenge Chicks calling from the box.
Nest Box Challenge Young poking their heads out of the box.
Nest Box Challenge Young leaving the box when they are ready to fledge.

What to do if the nest has been abandoned: Unfortunately, not all nests are successful. Some may be abandoned by the parents or attacked by predators. If you do find what looks like an abandoned nest, you may be tempted to remove the contents in an attempt to clean the box out for other birds. However, under bird protection law, it is actually illegal to clean out nest boxes during the breeding season, from 1st February to 31st July, in case active nests are inadvertently disturbed. If you do want to clean out the box at the end of the season, wait until the autumn when you can be sure that it is no longer being used. Remember to record the details in the Nest Box Challenge.