Brightly hued urban birdhouses that double as pencil sharpeners.

Trespasser-deterring birdhouses that resemble CCTV cameras.

Birdhouses that are also oversized Google Map pins.

Ceramic roof tile birdhouses and birdhouses with solar-powered landing strips.

It goes without saying that the inventiveness and imagination applied to birdhouse design really, truly knows no bounds. And you'll find more than a few avian rest stops featured here on MNN over the years that are funky, flashy, fussy and festooned with eye-catching color and ornamentation.

And why shouldn't they be? What's the harm of providing our friendly winged compatriots with shelter while also adding visual oomph to our backyards, gardens and patios?

As it turns out, plenty.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a Scotland-headquartered organization that serves as the largest wildlife conservation charity not just in the United Kingdom but in all of Europe, it's high time that we start seriously rethinking our birdhouse/nesting box purchasing decisions. That is, bird lovers everywhere should opt for simple wooden boxes in lieu of stylish statement pieces. And while "traditional" birdhouse options may lack a distinctive flair, aesthetic razzle-dazzle should never trump practicality.

"People tend to forget that a nest box will eventually contain tiny helpless, vulnerable baby birds so the appearance of the box should be the last thing on your mind," Ben Andrews, a wildlife adviser with the RSPB recently explained to The Guardian. "We have noticed in the last five or so years more and more people alerting us to places are selling unsuitable nest boxes. There's been more of an emphasis on people's gardens becoming more ornamental."

Andrews goes on to note that if a birdhouse is purchased to primarily function as a fanciful décor piece, entrance holes should be blocked to prevent birds from coming and going at their own peril.

So what, pray tell, does an up-to-snuff birdhouse look like per the RSPB?

For one, it's not whimsical and it's not designed to resemble something else, be it a windmill, a cat, or an old-timey saloon.

As mentioned, nesting boxes should be unadorned and constructed from solid, waterproofed wood. Metal, plastic and/or ceramic materials should be avoided due to the potential for overheating or condensation build-ups within the interior. While ubiquitous and seemingly helpful, perches are actually not recommended as they can serve as a sort of stepladder for predators. Excessive exterior embellishments are also a no-no.

In terms of size, a birdhouse should be modest and not too shallow or deep, according to the RSPB. And while consumers might opt for birdhouses with entrance holes that are large and accommodating, holes should actually be on the smaller side. While large holes can be indeed inviting to birds, they're also inviting to predators like squirrels, raccoons and, gasp, snakes. Large holes also allow for the elements — wind, rain and snow — to enter the cozy and ideally well-insulated interior space. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's handy-dandy NestWatch website matches appropriate entrance hole sizes with a variety of common North American bird species.

And then there's the issue of color. It's true that a flamboyantly hued birdhouse might more easily advertise itself to feathered lodgers. But a birdhouse done up in stripes or an eye-popping solids also serves as a beacon to unwanted critters, putting its intended inhabitants, particularly baby birds, at risk. Neutral/natural colors that blend into the surrounding landscape are preferable. And not to worry — birds are intelligent and resourceful creatures so no need to go with a super-conspicuous color scheme to attract their attention.

The British Trust for Ornithology's National Nest Box Week, an annual observance that implores Britons to install suitable nesting sites in advance of spring to "promote and enhance biodiversity and conservation of our breeding birds and wildlife," just wrapped up in the U.K.

Outside of breeding season and nesting boxes, I've previously noted that special considerations should be taken when installing bird feeders given that bird buffets dangling too close to homes can result in confused migratory birds colliding into windows.

Via [The Guardian] via [The Stranger]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.