Recycling for Songbirds

Save scraps of wood to build and sell bird nesting boxes and put out twine, yarn and other small materials for the birds to build the nests.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
April/May 1999
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Help your feathered friends prepare their nests by providing building materials.

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MOTHER'S readers send in their best tips.

Your dream has come true! You have your country home at last and are eager to share life with all the flora and fauna of the area.

You've hung a bird feeder, filled a birdbath, and now you look forward to the beauty, music, and insect-eating benefits of songbirds around your country space.

If you want an additional source of interest and amusement, this spring set yourself up in the building-supply business for birds. Every public library and bookstore has books with instructions on building a variety of nesting and roosting boxes for such desirable birds as finches, bluebirds, purple martins, wrens, robins, phoebes, song sparrows, chickadees, swallows, orioles, cedar waxwings, and owls. These boxes are a perfect way to use scraps of wood left from larger projects. Birds prefer rustic "architecture," so the amateur carpenter need not worry about perfection. In the South, hard-shells gourds have long been used effectively as nesting boxes.

Of course, songbirds have natural sources for nest-building materials, but you can augment these and have fun at the same time.

Start by collecting an assortment of twine, yarn scraps, narrow strips of soft cloth, dried grass sterns, and small twigs. Even bits of lint from the clothes dryer will attract some birds, and what better way to recycle them! Be sure the twine and yarn pieces are no more than four inches long, so the birds won't hang themselves on them.

Pile these nest-building offerings on the ground. Select a spot where you can watch from your favorite window. Sparrows use almost anything, but many birds are choosy and will work hard to extract special items from the pile. Comic moments are sure to occur, adding another dimension to bird watching.

Marcia Brown McQuaid
Austin, Texas

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