Birds are a sign of a healthy ecosystem. If your garden is home to birds, then there is a great food source for them, they have access to water, and they feel safe from predators. By providing not only a safe space for birds in your garden but also the tools they need to build their nests, your garden will be much more attractive to birds and result in a diverse population of these feathered friends.
Nest boxes are a great tool to set up to attract more birds to your garden. However, one of the most often asked questions when providing bird nesting boxes is, “should I put nesting material in a nest box?”
Should I Put Nesting Material in a Nesting Box?
It is not advised to add nesting material to a nesting box. Birds may be very particular when preparing their nests, and the nesting material may not be to their liking. This results in more work for the birds as they first have to remove all of the nesting material before building their own nest.
A full nesting box will often go unused as many birds prefer to create their own nests. It is best to set the nesting box out and allow the birds to pick their own nesting material.
But you may set the nesting material out in and around your garden for your bird to find and utilise, if you so choose.
Materials Used to Build Nests
Birds are very particular and incredibly creative when they build their nests. They utilise a wide array of organic and man-made elements to build the perfect nest to raise their chicks in. Some of the organically occurring materials found in nests include grass, leaves, moss, twigs, rocks, animal fur, mud, snakeskin, and spider silk. Many birds also add man-made elements to their nests. This can be anything ranging from fabric fibres, string, bits of plastic bags, aluminum foil, and paper.
So, what materials should you set out in your garden for birds to nest with?
These materials can range from small piles of dead twigs, dry pesticide-free grass, feathers, plant fluff, bark strips, pine needles, and anything else you find around your garden. While often found in nests, it is important to avoid actively supplying birds with plastic strips, tinsel, aluminum foil, cellophane, or dryer lint. While these items may seem useful, they can also have negative effects on the nests. For example, while dryer lint is soft and fluffy, it often disintegrates after the first rain. Elements like twine or wood shavings are other great options to provide birds.
Setting Out Materials for Birds
When you are setting out materials for birds to use when building their nests, you have to set them out in such a way that mimics the natural instinct to seek out these materials. Simply placing things on the patio table may not entice the birds to use the materials.
First, set up little areas around your garden where organic elements can gather, such as twigs and leaves. This may be in the form of an unraked corner or garden bed. Next, place materials you would like the birds to use around your garden in little stashes for them to find. You can use clean wire-mesh suet cages or mesh bags hung on fences. You can push the materials in natural crevices, such as holes in trees. You can drape them over existing vegetation. You can place them in open baskets. Think like a bird when you are placing the materials around your garden. Think about how they like to collect the materials. Get creative – after all, that is the fun part of preparing the bird’s nest!
Best Time for Nest Box & Nesting Material
Like most animals in the animal kingdom, birds follow annual cycles dictated by the seasons. First, the males court the female birds; then the mating process takes place. Once complete, the birds will start nesting and laying their eggs. Knowing when this cycle starts will allow you to take advantage of the season and provide the birds in your garden with the materials and boxes they will need for a successful breeding season.
Most common birds start looking for nesting spots and materials in the spring. Some birds start looking as early as February, while other birds don’t start looking until late April or May.
The best way to know when the birds in your area need the material is to identify a few of the most common species of birds in your area. Once you have identified them, you can begin your preparations. Keep in mind that each bird is unique and may not necessarily follow the specific species guidelines. Observe the birds in your garden. Once you get to know their behaviour and mannerisms, you should be able to identify the start of their courtship cycle.
Bird Nesting Boxes
With so many different kinds of bird boxes available, deciding which bird boxes to set up in your garden may be intimidating. Here are a few guidelines when picking bird nesting boxes.
Many birds prefer natural wood nesting boxes as it imitates their natural habitats. While that does not mean you cannot use other nesting boxes, it just means that they may not be as well received.
Another important aspect to consider when setting up a bird nesting box is which direction it is faces. Choose a spot in your garden that is facing away from the sunshine for most of the day. Ideally, you want the nesting box to be shielded from direct sunlight as much as possible, as direct sunlight into the nesting box will make the nesting box too hot for the babies. It is also important to shield the entrance of the box from strong winds and heavy rain. If you can find a spot in your garden that is permanently shielded from the elements, that will definitely be a highly considered spot. Look for big trees of natural crevices that will be big enough for your nesting box.
Hosting birds in your garden is a wonderful experience and such a special treat. Provide your birds with nesting boxes without putting nesting material in them. You are welcome to hide nesting material around your garden for the birds to forage. Then sit back and enjoy the cycle of life of birds right in your backyard.
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