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Is it possible for two nestboxes that are close together to be occupied by blue tits?

Sent in by Terry Gleeson, Swansea

It is unusual for two pairs of blue tits to nest close to one other in gardens, unless you live in a neighbourhood where gardens are large and contain a good supply of mature trees, preferably oaks.

Tree density in gardens is far lower than that in a wood and gardeners tend to choose ornamental tree species, which support a comparatively poor insect crop. Consequently, garden blue tits need to spread themselves out into larger territories in order to secure adequate food supplies for the breeding season. Although it  is unlikely that two nesting boxes would be occupied by blue tits in a normal suburban back garden, it is possible to have one box occupied in the front garden and a second one in the back garden.

Birds often view rows of houses as dividing lines between pieces of suitable habitat, and divide their territories accordingly. If coal tits regularly visit your garden, it may be possible to encourage them to take up residence in a nestbox, although being shyer, they prefer a quiet corner rather than a box close to the house. Since they also need a 25mm entrance hole, it is possible to have both a pair of coal tits and a pair of blue tits nesting in your garden.

Blue tits are territorial against other blue tits only, and so any one area can hold several pairs of nesting birds of different species.

Although blue tits and great tits are not territorial against each other, they can fight over nesting sites. If you witness this in your garden, fixing a second box a discrete distance from the first one may well result in two happy families. Make sure that one box has 25mm entrance and the other is 28mm or larger to discourage them continuing to squabble over the same box.

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