Using Nesting Materials to Attract Backyard Birds

If You Offer It, They Will Build

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Spring is peak birdwatching season as birds return to backyards to build nests and mate after their long migration.

This got me thinking about what to offer backyard birds as nesting material to encourage them to become our avian “tenants” this spring.

Having birds in your backyard allows you to see the birds’ entire lifecycle, from courtship and nest building to raising their young fledglings.

If you provide birds with suitable nesting materials, you can attract several families of birds to your backyard sanctuary.

Northern gannet collecting kelp to build a nest


What is Nesting Material?

Nesting material is anything birds use to construct a nest, such as twigs, soft plant matter, fluff (seeds with silly attachments like milkweed), mud, dry grass, moss, hair (pet fur or wool), snakeskins, natural fibers (yarn twine or string made of raw cotton or wool), and bird feathers found in your yard.

Lappet-faced Vulture building a nest

Don’t Use These as Nesting Materials

Don’t provide human hair for birds to use as nesting materials. It can get caught around the bird’s legs, beak or neck, cutting off circulation.

Never provide fishing lines or nylon twine as bird nesting material since they can cause deadly tangles.

Use caution if you leave tarps around your yard. We’ve watched birds pluck long, hair-like nylon fibers from old tarps. The strands can get tangled and injure chicks in the nest.

Birds grab things like cellophane and plastic for their nest.

Pair of Eastern Bluebirds gathering nesting material

Avoid discarding synthetic materials in the garbage. They can blow away and harm both birds and the environment.

Never offer laundry dryer lint. Although it seems like the ideal nesting material, it isn’t. Dryer lint soaks up water and may contain unhealthy chemical remnants from laundry detergents and softeners.

White stork (Ciconia ciconia)with young baby stork on the nest

Delivering Nesting Materials to the Birds

So you’ve assembled this collection of twigs, pet fur, natural fibers, and feather strips. What’s next?

You need a way to provide the nesting materials to birds in your yard.

The easiest way is to scatter them on the ground or pile them in sheltered areas where birds gather. You can also spread bird nesting materials on top of shrubs, tree crevices, or baskets, or use an empty wire suet bird feeder cage and stuff it with nesting materials where your birds visit.

If you want to be creative, use natural mesh bags or make your nesting material ornament hangers out of wire.

Great Blue Heron family in nest

3 Ways to Make your Backyard Nest-friendly

1 – Leave grass clippings on your lawn

2 – Avoid using chemicals on your lawn, garden, or house

3 – Leave some areas of your yard “natural,” with plenty of hiding places and fallen debris for nest building and natural populations of insects and spiders

Some birds like to plaster their nests with mud and spider webs.

Hodgson’s frogmouth with its two juvenile chicks in the nest

So, instead of bribing birds into your backyard with food, try providing nesting materials to attract spring and summer birds.

If you offer it, they will build.

Now, get out and see birds!

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