Nest Building


From YardMap‘s Facebook page:

In an increasingly fragmented and anthropocentric landscape it can be difficult and time consuming to locate enough high quality building materials to make secure and well insulated nests.
Many birds will resort to using dangerous materials like plastics, garbage or even cigarette filters. Leaving out piles of natural building materials will help provide birds the supplies they need as well as saving them time and energy that is better spent building, incubating, and raising their young.

Offer broken-up sticks of different sizes, wool or cotton batting, feathers, coconut fibers, untreated animal fur, horse hair, moss, mud in a bowl or puddle, even spider webs and snake skins!

Check out our nesting materials Pintrest board for more ideas:
For excellent nest information and an opportunity to take a very active part in the nesting going on in your yard visit:

About Eliza Waters

Gardener, writer, photographer, naturalist
This entry was posted in Field Notes and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

61 Responses to Nest Building

  1. Every year I see the birds gratefully take the dogs hair I leave for them in my garden. There will definitely be some soft nests around here 🙂

  2. Robin says:

    I love this. 🙂 We are fortunate in that there is all kinds of good nesting material out and about, but I am surprised every now and then to see a bit of plastic bag built into a nest.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks, Robin. I’ve noticed Baltimore orioles will use strands of blue tarp. Since plastic is petrol-based, I expect it can’t be all that great for their sensitive little bodies.

  3. Laurie Graves says:

    What a great post. I get lots and lots of hair from my Sheltie—he is brushed nearly every day. Noortje Russel mentioned leaving it in the garden. Eliza, is that what you do?

    • Eliza Waters says:

      I hang pet fur in an old onion bag near the feeders, which is very popular!

    • Eliza Waters says:

      I also wash and crush egg shells to offer them calcium for their own egg building needs. Blue jays love these particularly.

      • Laurie Graves says:

        Do you scatter the shells under your feeder? Or some other place?

      • Eliza Waters says:

        I’ve spread them on the ground, put them on a platform feeder and they’ve even found them when I sprinkled them in the garden. I’ve seen the jays hunting around the compost pile for them, too. They can’t seem to get enough of them!

      • Laurie Graves says:

        Well, I usually put them in my covered compost pile, but I’ll start spreading them beneath the feeder and see what happens. Thanks so much for the tip.

      • Eliza Waters says:

        My pleasure. Do you get a lot of bluejays? I recall seeing a lot in the Maine woods. Do you get towhees, too?

      • Laurie Graves says:

        Yes, lots of bluejays and to me they are never annoying. No, as far as I know, we do not have towhees in central Maine. At least, I have never seen one. What a handsome bird!

      • Eliza Waters says:

        My sister lived in inland Wells in the 70s and we would see them all the time.

      • Laurie Graves says:

        Interesting! Perhaps they don’t come as far as central Maine. Or, perhaps they don’t like our yard, which is in the woods.

      • Eliza Waters says:

        They like open undergrowth of laurel, oak and pine, where they scratch around like chickens. This was in the 70s…maybe their numbers are down? It seems your habitat is similar.

      • Laurie Graves says:

        Not much laurel here, or if there is I don’t recognize it. Plenty of pine and oak trees. I’ll be on the lookout for this bird. I’ve been seeing others—cardinals and red-bellied woodpeckers that are recent arrivals to Maine.

      • Eliza Waters says:

        I love seeing cardinals and red-bellies (their call sounds like ‘dirt-dirt-dirt’ to me). It is amazing to think that they used to be considered ‘southern’ birds!

      • Laurie Graves says:

        I’ve only seen those red-bellies in the last year or two. Now, we have them regularly at our feeder. The creep north. Sometimes, we even get creatures that don’t cause harm 😉

  4. Val Boyko says:

    Love it! There’s plenty of debris around for the guys this year 🐦

  5. I love this so much. ❤

  6. Julie says:

    I hang our labradors hair up with clothes pegs and have a place for moss and birch twigs for the birds to collect. As well as being really helpful its a satisfying thing to do Eliza.

  7. arlingwoman says:

    I’ve put out human hair–as I shed a great deal and have gobs of the stuff. It’s kind of strange to see a nest with shredded plastic woven in, which I’ve noted once in a while. All the nice dog hair would make a comfy nest, I think.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Horse hair and strips of grapevine are also favored, I’ve noted. It can be a bit of a scavenger hunt coming up with different material. A great activity for kids of all ages! 😉

  8. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says:

    Yup! I left the outside chair pillows out that need to be replaced this year, they are getting the stuffing out of the holes. Great post Eliza. It’s always nice to help our feathered friends!

  9. Such wonderful ideas to help our birds in nature! Thankyou Eliza.

  10. Oh, this is a good reminder for me to put some things out for our bird friends! Thank you!

  11. adeleulnais says:

    I have just finished crocheting a blanket and have lots of little ends I will place in the garden so the birds can use them. Thank you so much for posting.

  12. Finally a use for the dog hair. Great article Eliza

  13. We do our best, but draw the line at nicking our roof insulation 🙂

  14. I like these postings, Eliza. You always post things that make it all seem “do-able”.

  15. pagedogs says:

    When I was young, we used to hand orange yarn and white string for oriole nests. Now I brush our ever-shedding Zoe outside and release her clumps of hair to the wind. But I may try the onion bags. And egg shells, who knew? Not me–I’ll give them a try too.

  16. Ann @Ann Edwards Photography says:

    a lovely reminder, Eliza. I know someone who puts outs scraps of coloured yarn and then enjoys seeing the multilcoured nests around!

  17. AmyRose🌹 says:

    We have a bird haven here on our property, Eliza, something that I intentionally “saw” over 26 years ago when we basically had nothing but weeds growing. Now on our property we have over 1/2 acre of wild, trees, bushes everything that a bird would want to both build a nest and live. Lots of berries, lots of insects and lots of LOVE from me and our cats. There are times I just stand there in awe listening to hundreds of birds singing. What a feeling that brings. Just wow!!! ❤

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Sounds heavenly! ‘If you build it, they will come!’ 🙂

      • AmyRose🌹 says:

        Mother created it, Eliza. That’s what so amazing. Seeds flew, planted and then grew. We had 2 trees total and now probably about a dozen. It’s so filled in that when I look at pictures from 27 years ago, it’s shocking. A LOT can happen in 27 years!!! ❤

      • Eliza Waters says:

        I know what you mean. We’ll be here 26 years this July and when I look at the old photos I am amazed. Indeed, a lot grows in that amount of time!

  18. ladyfi says:

    I offer up my dogs’ fur and lots of sticks. Sweet shot.

  19. MK says:

    Another post that I must bookmark! Thanks!

  20. Kathy Sturr says:

    My increasingly large compost pile(s) have much to offer – twigs, grass, stems! I have also left out remnants of “window box Christmas arrangements” cattails – the fluffy downy stuff, sumac. Reminding me to get my birdhouses out and up – I need more, of course. A nice warm nest would be appreciated today! I am home and it is cold and grey here Eliza, not very welcoming. But I planted my peas (: I’m watching gold finches at the feeder – beginning to turn color.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Sounds like you are settling in and are already out in the garden. I have still yet to receive my sweet peas in the mail, backordered since Feb. Looking forward to the garden season ahead!

  21. Debra says:

    Oh! ty for this. The wrens around here frequently use plastic to line their nests. I think I will try to make it easier for them to find better materials.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      It’s fun to watch them going through the pile of grass and twigs, like discerning shoppers at a bargain table, and pulling the fur out of the little bag, a beak full of fuzz flying off with their prize!

  22. Maria F. says:

    What a beautiful post Eliza.

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