How do you mount a nest box on a metal pole?
  • There are several good ways to mount boxes.
  • On this page we'll show you our nest box mounting method.
  • We like it because it holds boxes securely to poles and prevents them from
    slipping down.
  • This method also allows us to remove boxes easily after nesting for cleaning,
    disinfecting with bleach, making repairs, and off-season storage.

Below we will also discuss:
  • When to erect boxes.
  • How high on poles to mount boxes.
  • What direction boxes should face.
  • Perch bars.
  • Two boxes on one pole.

For each box we use the following materials:
  • 2 pipe hanger straps (below left), the two hole kind.  Make sure to use only
    the size that fits tightly on your poles.
  • 1 small hose clamp (below right).
  • 4 sets machine screws and nuts, plus two washers per set.  
  • We use 8-32 x 1-1/4" screws with matching nuts and washers.

  • At home drill holes for machine screws in back of box, aligning them so the pipe
    straps will attach as in the picture below.  
  • Make the holes the same size as the screws so the boxes won't be loose.

  • Insert screws from the inside of the box only, using one washer with each.
  • Add pipe straps, second washers, and nuts.
  • We do the above two steps at home, leaving the spaces between straps and
    boxes open enough so boxes can be slipped easily onto poles in the field.

  • It's often easiest to slide the pole through the straps, then tighten the screws
    most, but not all the way, before setting the pole in the ground.  

  • Once a box is positioned on a pole at the desired height and direction the straps
    can be tightened down securely.  We use a short screwdriver and a small
    wrench for this.

  • To prevent boxes from slipping down poles we attach a hose clamp under each
    box (see below), positioned so the box rests atop the clamp's screw.
  • We use a large screwdriver to tighten the clamp as firmly as possible.

When should nest boxes be put up?
  • It's best to have your boxes already up when the swallows begin to
    return, but not absolutely necessary.
  • Tree Swallows return earlier than most spring migrant songbirds.  Exactly when
    differs by region.  Ask local birders for their expected arrival time in your area.  
  • Digging may be hard or impossible in the wet or frozen ground of early spring,
    so you may be forced to wait until conditions improve.
  • The shortage of nest cavities usually means some swallows will still be looking
    for nesting places weeks after most have arrived.  The male swallow below was
    still searching in mid May and claimed this box as soon as it was erected.
  • But your chances for 100% occupancy are better if your boxes are up early.

How high should boxes be mounted on poles?
  • Five and one-half to six feet from ground to entrance hole is a good
    height.  You want to make it hard for predators to jump to boxes.
  • Don't mount boxes any lower even if it means you'll need to step up on
    something to check box contents.  (We bring a dry-wall bucket with us for use as
    a combination stool, seat, and gear carrier).

What direction should boxes face?
  • Experiments have shown that early in the Tree Swallow nesting season boxes
    facing south, southeast or east are preferred, perhaps because these
    boxes are apt to warm up faster and more in the morning.
  • In the second half of the season direction does not seem to effect box choice.
  • Caution: If there's a strong prevailing wind at your project site consider facing
    your boxes away from it, regardless of direction.  

What are the perch-bars (see below) made of and how are they mounted?
  • These bars aren't necessary but, if present, get much use by the swallows.
  • They are easily constructed from two pieces of 1/2" wooden dowel.
  • The lower end is wrapped with duct tape and then twisted by hand into the top
    opening of the metal pole.
  • The duct tape will wad up in the pole, holding the perch-bar in place.
  • Another option is to fasten perch bars directly to boxes.

Can a swallow box be mounted on one pole with another box?
  • Two pair of Tree Swallows will not nest side by side in two boxes mounted on
    one pole.
  • But some species of cavity-nesting birds, including Tree Swallows, will nest
    surprisingly close to other species.
  • For example, swallows and bluebirds will sometimes nest in boxes attached to
    the same pole, and box pairing is a tactic to consider if swallow-bluebird
    competition for single boxes is an issue for you.  (See Bluebird Competition).

  • It is also common to see swallow boxes attached to the backs of Wood Duck
    boxes, in order to reduce Tree Swallow annoyance of the ducks.
  • Over the years Steve Simmons of California has had 12 different species
    combinations in boxes paired on single poles, including the Barn Owls and Tree
    Swallows in his photo below.

  • So boxes intended for different species, mounted on one pole, may be
    appropriate in some circumstances if it reduces interspecific competition or
    saves money, but be aware that not all species coexist well.  (See House
    Sparrow Damage and House Wren Damage).

Click here for Next Step: Tree Swallow Nest Box Grids.

Mounting Nest Boxes on Poles
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