Nest Building Time…Published 2015/10/11

When I was outside in the garden this afternoon I was aware of a very industrious female blackbird with a mission close by. She was gathering material to build her new nest. Unlike the male blackbirds, the females are brown and mottled. This one was quite comfortable with me being only a few metres away.

She was busily pecking and pulling coconut fibres from an old coconut hanging basket liner which was on top of a raised brick bed. The pulling and tugging went on for some time and her beak was chocker block with fibres, I could hardly see her head! Eventually she considered she had enough in her beak and flew away with her building materials.

As a small child my mum used to tell me to pull out the hair collected in my hair brush and wrap it round bare branches in the garden for the birds to provide nesting material; I still do that today and secretly wonder how many nests my hair may have been woven into between the northern and southern hemispheres.

Years ago I remember examining a beautifully made bird’s nest that had fallen down on to the garden path and seeing one of the nesting materials used consisted of a very fine plastic cassette tape (rather obsolete today).

Some birds find the most obscure places to build nests, like this photo below which was sent into The Guardian and shows a thrush getting ready for Spring as it starts nesting in the amber light in a set of traffic lights at Leeds Bus Station.


Blackbirds mate for  life until they die.  I think one of the most beautiful sounds is the sound of a blackbird singing, especially after rain.

Over the last week I have been aware that as late as 8.30pm when it is dark outside there has been quite a rumpus in the back garden with blackbirds.  Perhaps they are settling down to sleep for the night and shouting out their last orders and instructions.  Where birds go at night had always been a mystery to me.

Here is a list of suitable nesting materials you can make available in your garden to0 help their nest building:

Some of the best nesting materials to supply to birds are:

  • Cloth Strips:Natural fibres – such as cotton, wool, jute, and hjessian – make perfect bird nesting materials. Cut old fabric into pieces 3” to 6” long and no more than 1” wide. Longer pieces are too much for birds to handle and can even strangle them.
  • String and Ribbon:String, twine, ribbon, lace, and yarn make good nesting materials. Use natural fibers, and cut pieces no more than 3”- 6” long.
  • Small Yard Debris:Pine straw, wheat straw, and tiny twigs make good bird nest building materials.
  • Grass Clippings:One of the most common nesting materials, grass clippings can be gathered into balls or simply left mulched into your lawn.
  • Animal Hair:If you brush or clip your animals, save the fur! It makes a wonderfully soft lining for bird nests. You can use human hair clippings, too. Make sure the fur hasn’t any chemicals in it like flea killer.
  • Cocoa Fibre:Recycle worn-out linings of hanging baskets for bird nesting material.
  • Plants and Seeds:Fluffy seeds and plants, such as cattails, make good bird nesting materials.
  • Cloth Batting:Wool or cotton batting cut into 3”- 6” strips makes good nesting material.
  • Feathers:Providing feathers for nesting material is a great way to recycle old down pillows!
  • Moss:Sphagnum moss make great bird nesting materials.

What Not to Use for Bird Nesting Materials – Items to avoid for bird nesting materials include:

Dryer Lint: While dryer lint may seem like an ideal nesting material, it hardens and crumbles when it gets wet. Instead, use things more fibrous that the birds can weave together.

  • Synthetic Material:Even though birds will grab things like cellophane and plastic for their nest, avoid providing synthetic materials that can harm both the birds and the environment.
  • Synthetic String:Never provide fishing line or nylon twine as bird nesting material, since it can cause deadly tangles.



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