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Nature and Environment

News about the health and beauty of the natural world that sustains us.

Nesting Materials for Birds

EML Nesting 

One of the best parts of providing habitat for birds in your yard is the possibility of being chosen as a nesting site. The initial excitement of discovering a new nest tucked away in a native shrub or perched up on a ledge is followed by the joy of finding that precious collection of eggs gently nestled within. The fledging success of this clutch will depend on several environmental factors including the location of the nest and the quality of material used to make it.

Nest building and rearing young require intense energy consumption, creating trade-offs among energy spent during building, incubating, and collecting food. Time is energy. Too much time spent looking for nest materials can limit reproductive success. The less time a bird spends looking for materials and building a nest, the more energy is available for other stages of reproduction. By providing a safe location and an abundance of high quality building materials you may be able to facilitate more successful nesting attempts.

Birds use a variety of materials to build a strong nest and hold it in place. You can help by putting out supportive materials such as:

• Piles of both rigid and flexible sticks of different sizes
• Pieces of native grapevine or Virginia Creeper
• A collection of coconut fibers or horse hair
• Mud in a bowl or small puddle nearby.

Hummingbird Nesting 

Insulation is another very important feature in a well built nest. Heat loss due to wind and wet conditions will cool eggs in a nest during incubation recesses and the parent has to regenerate that heat upon return. You can put out a wide range of materials that birds like to use.

• Wool from sheep, goat, or alpaca; cotton batting and
• Grass, hay or straw, and leaf mulch can also be easily offered
• Undyed crafting feathers are excellent and can be a favorite among Tree Swallows.

For hiding the nest, deterring predators, and for decoration to help attract a mate, offer:

• Pieces of lichen and moss
• Snakeskins and spiderwebs
Green material such as pine needles or sprigs of herbs or shrubs.

Collecting Wool 

There are numerous ways to offer building materials. We do, however, encourage the use of natural materials to lessen the risk of entanglement in synthetic fibers such as netting, twine, or fishing line. Avoid using animal fur that has been exposed to flea or tick treatments, or dryer lint because it may contain harmful residues. Keeping all of this in mind when offering building materials will help the birds in your yard produce high quality, safe, and secure nests.

To learn more about creating habitat for birds and wildlife.  Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology YardMap Project or follow us on Facebook.

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