BIRD lovers are being urged to help out wildlife over Christmas.

Winter is the perfect time of year to focus on nestboxes ahead of spring breeding season, according to the RSPB. 

The charity is asking the public to give existing nestboxes a seasonal spruce-up and, if you don’t have one, to pop one up so that your garden birds can explore it before choosing where to feather their nest next year. 

A nestbox in your garden, or attached to the side of your house, also provides essential shelter for garden birds during the cold snap. Winter nestbox roosts are often communal, with several birds packing in for warmth. The record number of birds discovered in a nestbox is 61 wrens.

Old nest material can contain parasites and fleas which may linger and infest next year’s hatched juvenile birds. Ensure your nestbox is a pest free zone by removing old nests/nesting material (typically from September onwards, but always check the nest isn’t active first, as some species nest throughout this month too). Remember to wear gloves when handling nesting material and do not breathe in dust from the old nest or dried droppings.

You are also legally able to remove any unhatched eggs between September and January, but these must be disposed of. 

Once your nestbox is empty, sterilise it using boiling water and let it fully dry out. Do not use insecticides of flea powder as these can be harmful to birds. To make your nestbox snuggly and inviting for winter visitors, pop a handful of clean hay or wood shavings in the bottom – but avoid straw as it can harbour mould. 

Nestboxes come in different shapes and sizes depending on the species – for example robins and wrens like an open fronted box, positioned low down and hidden in either a tree, shrub or bush. Whereas sparrows, tits and starlings like their closed, box homes fixed five meters up a wall or tree.

When you do have a refurbished nestbox, remember to give the new inhabitants total privacy.

For more information and a step-by-step guide on how to make your own nestbox, visit