WASHINGTON - If you have a birdhouse, prepare for guests. With warmer weather around the corner, our feathered friends are seeking out places to build their nests.

"Now is a good time," says Steve Nelson, of the Wild Bird Center in Alexandria, Va.

Things to keep in mind for birdhouses:

•Make sure there is a hole for venting hot air, another for draining rainwater and a panel that opens and closes for cleaning.

•Clean them at least once a year. Birds won't nest in houses not clear of last year's litter.

•Don't put nesting material inside. Leave it outside the house and let birds find it themselves.

•Place them 4 to 6 feet above the ground. Not only do birds like that height, but the shorter distance to the ground is easier on fledglings during their first flight.

•Face them south to southeast for warming sun.

•If a house is made of metal, hang it in a shady area. Otherwise it will absorb sunlight and make the inside too hot.

•A yard with shrubs and bushes is bird-friendly. Birds like to have safe zones for cover if they think a hawk is flying by.

•Birdhouses with perches can encourage predators, such as cats, squirrels and larger birds, to get a foothold inside.

•Try to place birdhouses where you can see them, maybe from a kitchen window. It's nice to see the birds using their temporary home.