[Activity] Make a Nesting Materials Hub for Birds

I never forget to feed the birds. Every time I go outside, my muscle memory moves my eyeballs to the feeders to see if they need to be refilled.

But what I do forget is that, judging by how vocal they’re becoming, they’re getting into the mood for finding a mate and building a nest. The daylight clings a little longer, and all the trees – I just know it – are starting to stir. So this year I wanted to add another element to the backyard: a little depot for nesting supplies. Now most birds are going to use natural goodies, like twigs, moss, and (if you’re a hummingbird) even spider web silk, but birds are opportunists and if they decide yarn or dog hair would benefit the nest, they’ll certainly use it.

Cross the jump to see what I did this year!

nesting materials

I might be a little early with this one, but I got overexcited on a gorgeous sunny day and figured the longer the materials are available, the more birds will get to see them.

All you need for this activity is a suet feeder and whatever materials you want to put into your nesting station. Below is an image of the materials I used for mine.

nesting materials list

I do a lot of sewing, so I was delighted to have another way to recycle all those tiny scraps that otherwise go in the garbage. For the nesting depot, I chose loose cottons cut into strips (1) and strips of linen, which is like cotton but is made of flax (2). I left the edges frayed, but removed any loose thread. Then I asked around to see if anyone had an old mop they didn’t want anymore – you’d be surprised how many people do! So I unraveled several strips and cut some into smaller strips (3). Then I cut up some yarn I have but never use (4). I also collected a fair amount of dog hair (my dog sheds like crazy even though he’s got a short coat) and mixed in my own hairs from my hairbrush (5). Now, what I have listed here as cattail fluff (6) is actually eco-friendly craft stuffing that I use for filling stuffed animals, but you can use either, and it’s a ton of fun to collect and dry out cattail fluff for this purpose. Lastly, I cut up a broken craft feather that I couldn’t use (7).

Then I jammed all of it into the plastic bag I’d use to collect the doggie hair, and rolled and smushed it around until it was in a kind-of ball.

IMG_2764

Then I took my ball and put it inside an empty suet feeder, hung near a birdhouse and a bird feeder so the birds will get familiar with it rather quickly (I wove some more mop strings through the bottom of the feeder in hopes of attracting orioles). A lot of people suggest using those netted bags that oranges come in, but I get nervous using any kind of stringy plastic around birds so I opted for the sturdy metal suet feeder. I recommend hanging your station somewhere sheltered if you can – that way if it rains or snows, the materials stay dry. (I had no such luck so we’ll see how it does when we get some more precipitation.)

nesting materials 2

This was an easy, fun activity that felt like a scavenger hunt around the house, looking for materials that were safe and fun to use. It could be easily be as fun to go for an outdoor hunt for natural materials to include, such as the ones listed below.

Other Things To Offer:
– dried grass clippings (like from ornamental long grasses, so long as they don’t have any chemicals or pesticides on them) – birds love to use grass for nesting
– pine needles
– moss (but do not overcollect)
– bark strips (use from downed trees, avoid stripping bark off living trees)
– dead leaves

Do Not Offer:
– dryer lint, even though it seems like a great nesting material
– anything plastic or nylon, like fishing line, which can injure birds or kill them
– anything exposed to household chemicals (make sure you wash and dry those mop heads well)
– pet hair from pets treated with chemical flea/tick repellants

Have you made one of these before? What do you think about this one? Thanks for joining us! :)

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More?
Here are directions for making a wreath of nesting materials (although I personally wouldn’t use dental floss) if you’d like another or different project!
Here are some more tips from the Humane Society for providing nesting materials.
Cornell has a great list of suggestions for caring for wildlife in your yard.
Here’s a short list of what some birds prefer to use in their nests, by the Fairfax County School System in Virginia.

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Posted on February 28, 2014, in Activities, Fauna and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great idea- birds will love it!

    • Thanks, I sure hope so! They’ve been too distracted by the snow to notice so far I think, but hopefully they will find the cotton fluff and pretty cotton pieces irresistible! :)

      Thank you for reading and commenting!
      Nicole

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