Some Birds Live in Houses
Certain songbirds such as chickadees, house wrens and others prefer to build their nests in cavities rather than in exposed tree branches. In the wild they seek out holes in old tree trunks, walls, barn rafters and similar sites. These are the birds that will accept a birdhouse for shelter and for rearing their young.
Birdhouses, or nesting boxes as they are sometimes called, are an acceptable substitute for cavities if they fit the needs of the particular species. Various types of songbirds are fussy about the size of the hole, the dimensions of the box, how high you mount it, and in what kind of tree it is placed. When they go house hunting they check perching features, the distance to feeding sites and the availability of cover. Some species-specific information is provided in the chart below.
Some Birds Do Not Live in Houses
A number of birds on the Do-It Dozen list prefer to build nests in various trees and shrubs. Cardinals, northern catbirds, northern mockingbird, hummingbirds and orioles do not use manmade bird structures of any kind thank you. Robins and flycatchers, on the other hand, sometimes use a nesting shelf or platform if it is located in the proper area and environment. If you do buy or build a nesting shelf it is wise to remove the old nest each fall so it is ready for a new family come spring. If you varnish the shelf every couple of years in the late fall, it will last for many years.
For more information see Building Bird Houses.