Backyard Wild Bird Nesting Materials
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In addition to adding houses to a habitat, you can also help feathered friends to gather the nesting materials they use to build their homes. By providing safe nesting materials you encourage wild birds to raise their young in your yard.
nesting materials for wild birds
This is the part where we admit that we are hard core backyard bird watchers. We have feeders, we have baths, we have houses...but we also love to supply nesting materials for birds in hopes that they will come raise babies in our yard. Nest building is a very labor intensive process for birds is building nests. They must first select a proper nesting site to suit their species needs, find all the materials they need, carry them back to the chosen nesting site, and then actually build it. There is a lot of running back and forth to carry items to the nest in process at this time. All of this is extra activity that must be done in between their every day activities of forage food and water. Give the birds in your area a assist by furnishing a stash of nesting materials from which they can choose. If your yard has safe nest sites and adequate building material it will be more appealing to birds, including those that normally don't visit feeders.
You can put out centralized stashes of nest material. It can be natural materials like straw, small sticks, and twigs, or man made items such as yarn and string. Always use natural colored, un-dyed man made items. Try putting out any combination of the following:
- Thin twigs
- Dog and cat hair - If you have dogs or cats, and we do, you know what a cakewalk this one is. Simply brush pet and pull insane volumes of hair from the brush. Later, you can be enormously amused that the cute little bird babies outside were raised in a nest from your pet hair - as your pet glares out the window.
- Human hair - from your hairbrush
- Thin strips of cloth - cut about an 1 wide and 4-6 inches long
- Feathers - old down or feather pillows are a resource for this
- Long dried grasses
- Yarn or thread or string cut into 4-6 inch lengths
- Pieces of cotton, fluff. We actually purchased an inexpensive cotton filled throw pillow on clearance for this and had enough nesting materials to share with all our (equally strange as ourselves) birding friends for several seasons. Next time, it's a smaller pillow!
- Long wilted leaves from daffodils, tulips or iris
- Small strips of cellophane - cut thinly and 4-6 inches long
- Spanish moss
- Regular moss - Once a season we pick some moss while on walks and lay it out to dry for a few days, them add to our nesting materials supplies.
- Pine needles - plenty of that to go around in most places.
- Milkweed silk - this one is favorite of several species of birds and worth collecting a few pods if you can. American goldfinch and orioles use ot often.
- Horse hair - Do you ride or know anyone that does? Horse hair from manes and tails is great stuff and very strong!
Items we do not use:
- Dryer lint. While there are several opinions about this, we tend to stay away from anything that may harm the birds. If you get dryer lint wet, when it dries it is hard and crumbles apart. Also, it is unclear if dryer sheets or other chemicals used when washing clothing is harmful for birds so we choose to not go there and give them items we are positive will not hurt them. Laundry detergent or fabric softener residue just does not sound good to us. Maybe it will not hurt them is not enough for us to test.
- Plastic sacks such as grocery bags - We have seen these suggested and think it is a very bad idea. Who has not seen a plastic sack after it has gotten wet and then dried up? Maybe you set on on a damp spot at one time. They get hard and brittle and the logo dye cracks of them in flakes.
Putting out nesting materials
Each season we put out small stashes of nesting materials beginning in about late February in the south. Northern climates can wait until March. We do purchase the bird nester refills since the material is so very soft and because we see it heavily used. The bird nester cage can be used over and again. Also, we use small suet cages and a small mesh peanut feeder with a tiny grid for some items. We get the most basic, inexpensive feeders for this. Normally we keep certain items separated - moss goes in one cage, while cloth, fluff, twine and yarn in another. Hairs are put in yet a third. Since peanut feeders have smaller mesh holes than a suet feeder, we use them for feathers, hair and milkweed. Anything such as iris leaf clippings or dried grass can be left in a pile, draped in a crook of a tree or another handy spot. Such cages are easy to hang discreetly in trees or shrubs. You will know where they are so may watch the birds gather their nesting materials, but your neighbors will not be wondering just what the heck is going on.
Some birds use mud to construct their nests. Keep a muddy puddle in the garden accessible for their use. The bottom of a plastic flower pot works great for this. Butterflies also use it to butterfly puddle which is an added bonus.