Helping our feathered friends

April 3, 2014

Have you ever been so excited to do something that you ran ahead and did it without thinking things out first? That's what I did this week. All the birds are "twitterpating," as Friend Owl says in Bambi, and I thought I'd help them by providing some nesting materials.

They have plenty of raw materials around here, but last year I found a piece of tulle ribbon cleverly woven into a bird's nest, and thought how fun it would be to see some of my ribbon scraps bound up in this year's nests, to see pink and green and yellow polka-dotted ribbons woven in with grasses and twigs and mud. I did worry, however, that it might incite rivalry or jealousy among my feathered friends. Would the robin lord it over the house finch because she got the pink ribbon?

Despite some misgivings, I gathered a handful of ribbon pieces and hung them on a cedar near our feeders.

I had kind of a nagging feeling about it, though. Maybe I should check this out first. Keeping one eye on the ribbon outside my doorwall, and the other on my laptop, I did some internet searching. Well, sure enough, after checking with the Cornell University's ornithology lab and several other sites, I discovered that long pieces of nesting materials are not recommended. Birds can get tangled up in them. Uh-oh. And of all the different materials recommended for nests, ribbon was not included.

So I hurried out and gathered up all the ribbon, making sure to pick up any pieces that had fallen to the ground. Whew. I still remember how I felt after collecting a bird's nest last summer, and being told at our local bird store that the goldfinches nest all summer long. Don't know for sure whether it was a goldfinch nest that I had filched, but I felt terrible. 

After collecting all the ribbon, I almost felt like I should just forget about "helping" the birds; after all, they've been building nests long before I came along. But, I do love to watch them, and I am providing them with food . . .

So, after reading a little more, I found an "approved" way to help the birds with their nest building.

Cut up pieces of yarn four to eight inches long, and put them in a suet feeder. Voila!

I can have the fun of watching the nest-building activities, and maybe in the fall, finding nests with red and blue yarn inside, and my little friends will have some soft and cozy bedding.

I was interested to learn in my reading that hummingbirds use spider silk in their nests. It holds things together, and also stretches as the little family grows! Human hair and animal hair (especially horse hair) is good for nests, too. No dryer lint. That surprised me. But apparently, there is residue in the lint from detergents and fabric softeners which can be harmful to the birds.

Hope you're enjoying all the activity around you as Spring finally arrives.

Linking with . . .


  1. Some interesting facts... I know the nests will be lovely with the little pop of color.. I love watching the birds.. I have two new cats....I have a feeling...not so may will be in my yard this year.. Blessings!

  2. That is such a fun idea. I may do that in my trees. Have you noticed how many bloggers enjoy the birds? I used to think it was so unusual since no one I knew in "real life" ever talked about watching the birds. It will be so sweet if you see a nest with one of your yarn strings in it!

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  4. I like the color in the garden. Even if they don't use it, it looks pretty. xoxo

  5. We have lots of birds in our garden and resident hummingbirds and yet I have never heard of supplying them with nesting material...great advice Deborah!

  6. You are so sweet to think about the birds! I would have never known about the ribbon getting tangled - good advice. I hope you find some pretty yarn in your nests this fall - what a fun idea. I have two long-haired dogs - I love the idea of setting out fur. Hope you have a lovely weekend. xo Karen

  7. Good advise offered so diplomatically. I will use the suet feeder idea - Look for this post to be a pick of the week next week. My Grand always set the hair she cleaned from brushes out for the birds!

  8. I have often thought of doing this, dear Deborah. Thank you for sharing your tips and advice - I will take them to heart :) Happy weekend! Love and hugs

  9. What a fun idea! I am going to put some string out with my kids now....
    I love your comment by the way, about no birds being harmed.... hahahaha!!
    “hugs” Crystelle
    Crystelle Boutique

  10. I was all excited the other day when I finally cleaned out the bird bath and put out food for the little birdies...I never thought about providing nesting material! Thanks for the suggestions. : )

  11. I didn't know all that you shared. I have "helped" the birds and have a few nests with those things woven in. My favorite is a nest with a blue ribbon woven in. (I only rescue nests that have fallen to the ground.) No more dryer lint!

  12. This is such an interesting post. I love to watch the birds, especially when they come around the birdbath. I would love to be able to watch a nest being built from start to finish.
    Mary Alice

  13. : ) I found Your post---interesting, fun and pretty.Thank You

  14. That's the sweetest post! :) I had read a blogger saying that she put dryer lint out but I have not done so...good to know!
    Here, aside from this past winter, the last decade of winters has been fairly mild, though we've certainly had snow and cold...just milder than usual. My dogs would usually go into full shed around the 3rd week of February. They are just beginning to do that now this year. Anyway, I remember one day last year when I brushed the while dog...who has long white hair...and there was hair all over a section of the back yard. I meant to out with a bag and get it a bit later and yet within a half hour or so all the little birds had swooped down and gathered it up for their nests! I was amazed, as it was a large quantity of hair! :)

  15. Hello! SO glad you like the chocolate. Such an interesting and informative post...I knew about the ribbon and animal hair, but not the dryer lint. My husband actually bought a little wire hanger that holds cotton fluff inside the last time he went to the Wild Birds Unlimited store to hang in our backyard. Some of it is missing, so I assume the birds are taking it. A friend just sent me a hummingbird swing which I can't wait to hang up for the birds to use- I bet it would be easy to make from a twig and copper wire- fun DIY project.
    have a great Sunday,

  16. Great idea. Love to see the little birds gathering for their nest.

  17. Very cool! LOL no birds were harmed. Thanks for sharing at the Anything Goes linky at Bacon Time. Hope to see you again tomorrow.


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