Usually I am a very positive person when it comes to weather. Living in Ohio, it is the only way to survive. This year though, it seems like Spring may have a difficult time arriving. As I look outside, I see all the poor fluffy robins that have returned, only to experience another burst of cold and along with quite a few snowflakes. After eating all the berries from my holly bush, they hunker down in the branches, seeking some sort of refuge. What’s a poor bird to do when she should be out searching for her nesting supplies?
It is at this time, just before spring, that I like to give Mother Nature a hand. Whether the birds will make their home in one of the bird houses hanging in my backyard, or hidden deep inside an arborvitae, my feathery friends will begin looking for materials to build nests soon. This is where I can lend a hand.
First, I headed out in my yard with a basket and collected all the different natural nesting materials I could find. I tried to get a combination. Some suggestions are:
- Dried leaves
- Dead twigs
- Fluff, from ornamental grasses, cattails, cottonwood
- Pine needles
- Dry grass
I also searched in my house for manmade materials. Honestly, I just had to walk in my craft room where I found nesting materials galore.
- Strips of fabric, lace (cut to about .5 X 3 inches)
- Yarn and string (about 2-4 inches long)
- Stuffing material
- Human hair (I clean out all the hairbrushes)
- Pet fur
- Cocoa fiber (usually found in hanging baskets)
- Thread clippings
- Easter basket grass
There are some items you should avoid:
- Pet fur that has been treated with flea or tick spray
- Dryer lint, because of fabric softener and it crumbles when wet
- Fishing line
Once I collected my materials, I needed something to put it all in. Sure, you can drape it on shrubs, stuff it in the crotch of a tree, or pile it in sheltered areas, but I like to make nesting ornaments. The plastic mesh bags that oranges and onions come in work great. Large pinecones and empty suet cage holders are another choice. With all the supplies on my kitchen island I was ready to begin. Remember, it is still really cold here, otherwise I suggest you do this outside, it’s a bit messy.
With the bags stretched open, I added a little of each material at a time. Putting the stuffing and fluff near the bottom helped keep the material from falling out. I broke some of the twigs so they are smaller and cut my fabric and yarn into sizes that would be both safe an manageable to the birds. Once each bag was loosely packed, cinching the top with a string and making a hanging loop was all I had left to do.
Since there was quite a bit of nesting materials left, I used the large pinecone and suet feeder cage I found in my barn. Again, I loosely filled the suet feeder, leaving some ornamental grass sticking out the sides. For the pinecone I just stuffed some material between the seeds and added a string to hang it.
Now, time to hang up my nesting ornaments. Since my kitchen sink looks out into my backyard, I put the nesting ornaments where I can enjoy watching the birds pick through them. It is important to not only hang them high enough to protect the birds from any predators, but to make sure it is in an place where they will feel safe. Under my pergola, among the trumpet vines is another good area.
There are no hard and fast rules about setting out nesting materials. You might want to do a little research about the types of birds in your area, and what they use to build their nests. Weather plays an important role too. I watch for the robins to start arriving and pay attention to the forecast. It is suggested that nesting materials be set out in early spring. I prefer to watch the activity in my own backyard to determine when I will hang my nesting ornaments.
All my hard work pays off when the weather breaks and I can enjoy being outside. With a little snooping, I find some of the nests that were built in my yard. It is a great feeling to see pink Easter grass, fabric and yarn mixed in with all the other debris. I also get to enjoy the beautiful songs of the birds in my yard and watch as the mamas feed their ever hungry babies.
Yes, it is a great feeling to know I gave Mother Nature and my feathered friends a hand with my nesting ornaments.
Here is a great resource from the Ohio Division of Wildlife for attracting birds to your backyard.