Nesting Materials for Birds

Table of Contents

If you’re the kind of gardener who is always looking for better ways to support the flora and fauna of your outdoor spaces, then you’ll be interested to learn more about nesting materials for birds. Make your landscape a haven for backyard birds by providing them with the natural materials they need to build their nests. Here’s some tips on how (and how not) to do that.

Bird Nesting Material Dos:

Cactus wren carrying nesting materials.

1. DO make small sticks, twigs and straw available to the birds.

Autumn and winter garden debris is a source of nesting material for birds in the spring.

Natural materials like these—the kind of debris you rake from your lawn and garden beds once the snow and frost have gone—are exactly what most birds use as the base of their nests. Instead of bagging up that yard waste, make small, easily accessible piles for birds to scavenge from for their home building activities. Or stuff a handful of twigs or straw into an empty suet or other type of feeder and hang it near your backyard birds’ food supply. Clean hay is available at most garden centers and birds love it for their nests.

2. DO leave your grass clippings for the birds.

Bird gathering grass for nesting material.

Grasses may be second only to twigs as a favorite nesting material for birds. If you’re already leaving your clippings on your lawn to compost after you mow—a great way to encourage a healthy lawn –then don’t change a thing! The birds will be able to find what they need. If you feel you must remove the clippings, then consider setting aside a small pile during the nesting season for the birds to pick through. One caveat: Don’t let birds access grass treated with weed killers or chemical fertilizers.

3. DO provide natural sources of fluff for birds’ nests.

Cute dog with hairy mess all over sofa.

You can put out organic cottons, wool and even pet fur for birds like hummingbirds who like a fuzzy nest. The hair you brush from your pets is fine if it’s short and the pet wasn’t treated for fleas and ticks.

4. DO establish plants in your landscape.

Plants that provide good nesting materials: milkweed, lamb's ear, cottonwood trees, fountain grass.

Choose plants that naturally produce the type of materials that birds prefer for nesting. These include:

Bird Nesting Material Don’ts:

Robin with plastic string for its nest.

1. DON’T put out long strands of yarn, string or ribbon.

Scraps of yarns and ribbons.

These can wrap around baby birds, injuring or killing them. Natural fibers, without dyes or other treatment, are best as long as they are cut into pieces no longer than 2 inches (5 cm).

2. DON’T use human hair.

Woman showing hair in a hair brush.

Human hair is strong and very often long enough to be dangerous. It would be easy for birds, especially babies, to become injured by getting entangled in hair.

3. DON’T use dryer lint.

Person removing lint trap from a clothes dryer.

It tends to disintegrate in rains and leave holes in the nests of the birds that build with it.

4. DON’T put out any plastic items.

Bird's nest made partially with plastic bags.

Such as:
  • Bags
  • Ties
  • Ribbon
  • Wrapped wire
  • Fishing line
You’ve got food and nesting material for your backyard birds? What else can you do to attract birds to your landscape and keep them healthy and happy? How about a source of water?
Baby cardinals crying for food from their nest.


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