How to Monitor Nestboxes

Monitoring nest boxes (birdhouses) can be very important if you're trying to keep an eye on native bird population fluctuations in your back yard or area or if you're checking for the health of baby birds, condition of the nest box itself or for the presence of intruders. Follow these instructions to learn how to properly monitor your nest box.


  1. 1
    Make sure the weather is good. If you open the nest box when it's cold or raining, you may chill the babies.
  2. 2
    Check infrequently to allow the birds space. Some birds are more tolerant of humans than others and some birds have a very keen sense of smell and will be terrified by your presence. You'll need to learn about each species' needs specifically but on the whole it is recommended that you only check twice a week to avoid abandonment of the nestbox and potentially of the babies.
  3. 3
    Alert the birds. Before you open the nest box, make sure the birds know you're there, since a startled bird may fly into your face. Just tap lightly on the box or call.
  4. 4
    Open the box and quickly check. Do this quickly, so as to not agitate the parents or terrify the babies. Spend no longer than a minute checking, less time if possible.
    • Don't be scared if the parents dive at you. They're just defending the nest.
  5. 5
    Don't touch baby birds unless absolutely necessary. You may scare them to death, as you look, seem or smell like a huge predator to them.
  6. 6
    Don't touch eggs or even move them. Eggs are very delicate. The oil on your fingers may damage the shell, and some eggs are very fragile.
  7. 7
    If a bird is sitting on eggs, don't disturb it. Moving may stress the parent.
  8. 8
    Check the nest. There may be parasites such as wasps and their nests, intruders such as frogs, reptiles or mammals, or a dead baby bird. Remove unhatched eggs and dead babies to keep a nest clean. If there is an intruder, deal with it as best you can or seek professional advice.
    • Even if the birds are no longer there, they may return to find the intruder, so remove the invader to somewhere else or to a nest box of its own.
  9. Image titled Apr 24 Eggs
    Consider setting up a more sophisticated method of continual observation. If you're good with electronics and computers, why not make use of cheaply available modern technology to rig up camera surveillance inside the nest box and have the images fed back to your computer. This will allow you to check on the birds' activity from the comfort of your desk without having to disturb them unless truly necessary. If you're not sure what to do, seek advice from an online bird watcher's forum or ask a retailer for advice on setting up such a monitoring device.
    • When setting this up, do it outside of the breeding season, so that the birds are not disturbed.
    • If you notice damage to the nest box itself, make repairs immediately and as quietly and non-intrusively as possible. Temporary fixes that don't disturb are better than longer term ones that can frighten the birds; leave more complicated repairs until after the babies have grown and left.
  10. Image titled Google Spreadsheet
    Consider keeping a spreadsheet to record progress. If you want to compare progress from year to year, key in relevant information on a computer log to allow you to do this. Over time, such information could prove useful for scientists working with native bird recovery programs.


  • Don't check when the babies are close to fledging, as they may jump out from fright but not be able to fly yet. Simply watch for busy parental activity going in and out of the nest box as a sign that things are going well.
  • Intruders can include species of birds that you don't want in the nest boxes you've provided, such as sparrows, wrens or starlings. Shift them on, they're able to make their own nests without too much trouble.
  • Don't check when it's late or early in the day, as you may startle a sleeping bird.
  • It's a good idea to thoroughly clean out the nest box at the end of the breeding season so that it's clean and ready for the next season and to discourage the growth of parasites or invasion from other pests.
  • Watch out for possums, squirrels, rats, frogs, toads, lizards, mice and insects that can either fill the nest box to the exclusion of the wanted bird species or that can harm the birds and/or their eggs.
  • If you don't know much about your local birds, now is a great time to purchase some books and read up so that you can better understand their habits, behavior and needs.


  • Put safety first! If the nest box is high, be sure that your access to it is safe and sturdy to avoid falls and other injuries.

Things You'll Need

  • Items to reach nest box, safe ladder, etc.
  • Nest box repair materials
  • Items to help remove any nest box pests
  • Monitoring equipment if you're doing the high tech process

Sources and Citations

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