In this stressed modern world, many urban dwellers are increasingly turning towards their gardens to renew their bond with nature. Therefore, inviting birds to your garden is one step closer to living more serenely. Read on to learn more about how to cater for the nesting needs of our feathered friends.

The life-cycle of cavity nests

Depending on availability, many bird species may maintain several cavities as dormitories outside the breeding season. For example, a crested barbet may raise four broods in a single season.  After one or two seasons, when the chamber becomes too deep or may no longer be suitable, the original occupants (primary cavity nesters) abandon it to excavate a new cavity somewhere else.  Consequently, these vacant cavities are soon occupied by secondary cavity-nesting species.

Important  Considerations

  • Let the requirements of the birds guide your choice of site.
  • The log or box must be properly placed and mounted.
  • If possible, the birds should have a choice of alternative sites. Thus, aim to put up more than one nesting log per site.  In time, all the nesting logs will be excavated, then nesting cavities for secondary cavity-nesting species will become available.

Mounting a Nesting Log

  • Mount the nesting log on the underside of a sloping branch or trunk that is at least as thick as the nesting log.
  • The nesting log should preferably be mounted between 2 and 4 meters from the ground. Additionally, the log should never face north as this will cause overheating. An east facing position is therefore best.
  • Choose a quiet part of the garden preferably where the nest can be easily observed.
  • Cut away excess twigs and branches surrounding the nesting log. This will prevent predators from easily accessing the nest.
  • The log must be fixed firmly onto the branch with soft binding wire. Do not over tighten,  because it will allow for growth of the tree.
  • If you are keen on building your own nesting box or installing a nesting box camera, then visit Nest Watch for superb tips.

Primary cavity nesting  bird species in South Africa


  • Black-Collared Barbet
  • Pied Barbet
  • Yellow-Fronted Tinker
  • Crested Barbet
  • Bennett’s Woodpecker
  • Goldentailed Woodpecker
  • Cardinal Woodpecker
  • Bearded Woodpecker
  • Olive Woodpecker


Secondary cavity nesting bird species in South Africa


  • Pearl-Spotted Owl
  • Woodland Kingfisher
  • Striped Kingfisher
  • Hoopoe
  • Red-Billed Wood Hoopoe
  • Scimitar-Billed Wood  Hoopoe
  • Red-Throated Wryneck
  • Southern Black Tit
  • Dusky Flycatcher
  • Plum-Coloured Starling
  • Glossy Starling
  • Grey-Headed Sparrow
  • Yellow-Throated Sparrow
  • Cut-Throated Finch
  • Red-Headed Finch

Owl Nesting Boxes in South Africa

Barn Owls and Spotted Eagle-Owls live in close association with humans. Likewise, they will frequently make use of artificial nesting boxes.  They therefore often accept artificial nesting boxes attached to the walls of buildings and to trees. Here are some tips on how to mount an owl nesting box:

  • Only species that occur in the surrounding area will adopt a nest box in your garden.
  • Attach nesting boxes firmly  to a wall or tree trunk. Choose a quiet area, for example, use a seldom used outbuilding away from human disturbance and where it is inaccessible to predators.
  • Choose the shady side of a building or tree.
  • Ensure that boxes, especially the roof, are waterproof.
  • A piece of wood just below the box’s entrance is useful for the birds to perch on when arriving at the nest.
  • Use environmentally friendly methods to control insects and rodents.

Being the custodian of a new generation of birds is sure to deepen your bond with nature. Moreover, gardening with nature and promoting indigenous plants and birds is an important contribution to nature conservation. So, pop into Hecker Nursery now to get your garden set for spring with our nesting logs, owl boxes and bird feeders. Then enjoy your new chirpy neighbours!