You could argue that a birdhouse lends so much charm and even color to a garden that it doesn’t need feathered tenants to make us happy.

But how much more satisfying it is to have songbirds around, and to see them flitting back and forth in May with insects for their young, knowing that you lent a hand.

If you wait another month before putting up a birdhouse, however, you may be missing the boat for the year. Now is the time for buying or making and installing birdhouses, or cleaning and fixing existing ones — birds are looking for places to raise the spring brood.

The chickadee, surely one of the friendliest and most cheerful of all birds, starts looking in earnest for digs in early March, said Craig Tufts, chief naturalist at the National Wildlife Federation.

Birdhouses draw the types of birds that would normally find quarters in tree cavities, said Tufts. For urban gardeners, common inhabitants include chickadees, wrens, titmice and, a little rarer, brown-headed nuthatches. If your lot backs up to a park or woodland, you might attract a great crested flycatcher.

If you live close to old fields or orchards, the exquisite eastern bluebird, with its red breast, is likely to inhabit purpose-built houses on posts. This bird, once waning, has made a stunning comeback in the past couple of decades.

Various birdhouse options are available, from the ecologically savvy and ornithologically correct cedar boxes branded by the National Audubon Society to the more wacky and singular houses made by the Recycled Birdhouse Co. in Rome, Maine.

The Audubon boxes are made under license by WoodLink Ltd. of Mount Ayr, Iowa, and are available at bird supply stores and various hardware stores and independent garden centers, WoodLink president David Nylen said.

The Recycled Birdhouse Co. was founded by Mark Pelletier and Curtis Brown as a workshop for disabled adults. The birdhouses have a lot of character, not least their roofs fashioned from shingles of pine cone scales. Many are sold as folk art and used as decorative elements in porches or hung from exposed beams. All can go outside, some attract birds, others don’t, Pelletier said. “Birding is a funny science.”

Some people delight in buying old and antique birdhouses, which can be used outdoors for their intended purpose, as long as they are weatherproofed and free of lead paint, which isn’t good for birds, or humans for that matter.