Osprey_Bob_Howdeshell_Great_Backyard_Birdcount_participant

Osprey. Photo: Bob Howdeshell/Great Backyard Bird Count

The Bottom Line

For many bird species, the loss of natural places suitable for nesting has contributed to population declines. Artificial structures such as nest boxes, burrows, platforms, or roosting towers can make a real difference.


Old hollow trees were the favored roosts of Chimney Swifts. With human settlement, fireplace chimneys became a suitable alternative for the swifts. However, the loss of old-growth forests and the capping or removal of chimneys that are no longer in use has led to population declines of swifts. Fortunately, by constructing swift towers or preserving old chimney stacks, we can help save these remarkable birds.

Bluebirds—as well as many other cavity-nesting birds—prefer nesting in the cavities left by woodpeckers in dead trees. But the widespread loss of habitat, combined with the tendency of people to cut down dead trees without realizing their value to wildlife, has caused the loss of snags, leading to the decline of many bird species. One-third of North America’s cavity-nesting birds are experiencing a significant, long-term decline. 

Other birds, such as the Osprey, have benefited greatly from the placement of nesting platforms that simulate the natural open flat tops of old wind-topped trees or provide an alternative to the dangerous utility poles where these raptors are at risk of electrocution. Young Ospreys are especially susceptible as they test their wings near the high-voltage lines. 

While it it always best to preserve natural nesting and roosting habitats for birds, providing artificial structures can play an important role in the conservation of these species.