Spring into action for wildlife! Kids can help protect animals by creating habitat — including safe spaces for raising young — right in their own backyards.

chicakdee perched at entrance of coffee tub nest box

Photo © Tom Uhlman, Tomuhlmanphoto.com, excerpted from Wildlife Ranger Action Guide

Social distancing got you down? Are your kids stir-crazy from being cooped up at home? Does the supermarket feel like a scene from a sci-fi movie? Life in lockdown and parenting during a pandemic isn’t what most of us signed up for.

But coronavirus is here and deal with it we must. (Some days better than others!) A global crisis demonstrates how interconnected our small blue planet is. It reminds us to care for the world we share. It provides multiple teachable moments, especially when it comes to understanding how science works and what scientists do. Citizen science projects dealing with the pandemic directly are popping up, as are boosts in sign-ups from armchair citizen scientists willing to use their home computers to spot penguins and galaxies.

Pandemics and climate change can make us feel overwhelmed and powerless. But nothing soothes like knowing that nature endures. Now is the perfect time to think globally and act locally because today’s actions change the future for better or worse.

Creating habitat for wildlife right in your backyard provides near instant gratification and makes a difference. It’ll get you out of the house for some fresh air, too. Plant bushes that feed birds and bees, hang a bat house, or build a small frog pond. Spring is the perfect time to take notice of nature. Every day brings a new bloom, returning songbird, or creature awakening from hibernation.

Here’s a fun and simple habitat project that upcycles a plastic tub into a nesting box for birds. Many birds nest in holes, or cavities, in trees. Nest boxes are a great way to give cavity nesters more places to lay eggs and raise chicks. The trick is to cut the perfect-sized entry hole for the kind of bird you want to move in. So choose a bird, grab a plastic tub, and measure twice before cutting the hole. Enjoy and be well!


Large plastic coffee or other container with lid
Permanent marker or pen
Pointy-tipped scissors
Paint (optional)


1. Choose a hole size from the chart. Measure and draw the same-sized hole between the center and the edge of the lid (not right in the middle). Measurements listed below are diameters.

Hole Chart

for these birds… …cut this size hole
House Wren, chickadees 1⅛ inches (2.9 cm)
Titmouse, some warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatch 1¼ inches (3.2 cm)
Swallows, White-breasted Nuthatch 1⅜ inches (3.5 cm)
Eastern and Western Bluebird, Carolina Wren 1½ inches (3.8 cm)
Flycatchers, Mountain Bluebird 1⁹⁄₁₆ inches (4 cm)
child tracing circle on plastic coffee tub lid for entrance to bird nest box

Photo © Tom Uhlman, Tomuhlmanphoto.com, excerpted from Wildlife Ranger Action Guide

2. With adult help, cut out the hole.

adult hands cutting entrance hole for coffee tub bird nesting box

Photo © Tom Uhlman, Tomuhlmanphoto.com, excerpted from WIldlife Ranger Action Guide

3. Paint the nest tub, if you like.

a girl and a boy painting the exteriors of coffee tub nest box

Photo © Tom Uhlman, Tomuhlmanphoto.com, excerpted from Wildlife Ranger Action Guide

4. Poke two holes in the side of the tub with a nail. Slip a length of string through the holes and tie it in a loop. Hang the nest box in a protected spot.

painted coffee tub next box for birds

Photo © Tom Uhlman, Tomuhlmanphoto.com, excerpted from Wildlife Ranger Action Guide

Project text and photos  excerpted from Wildlife Ranger Action Guide © 2020 by Mary Kay Carson. All rights reserved.

Mary Kay Carson

Mary Kay Carson is the author of Wildlife Ranger Action Guide. She has written more than 50 books for young people about wildlife, space, weather,… See Bio

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Wildlife Ranger Action Guide

by Mary Kay Carson

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