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10 Ways To Help Nesting Birds

Partially excerpted from: Backyard Bird News

  1. Provide water all year long. Make sure to keep it clean. Your birdbath may be the first place in your backyard a parent bird takes it offspring. Lots of family-style bathing takes place at summer birdbaths, and young birds can be dependent upon the only water source they know. So keep your bath filled and clean. Make sure the average water depth is less than three inches. Birds appreciate shallow water.
  2. If you find a nest, stay away! If you happen upon a bird’s nest, don’t linger. And don’t make a return visit. We human beings leave scent trails wherever we go, and these scent trails can mean an easy meal to a hungry raccoon, opossum, fox, or other predator. These predators are smart enough to follow these trails to see if they might lead to a snack. For the birds’ sake don’t help to blow a nest’s cover by visiting it repeatedly.
  3. Don’t mow meadows or bushy areas between late April and mid-August. This means that grass-nesting birds can nest in peace. Other animals appreciate the cover, too!
  4. Continue to feed high protein foods such as mealworms and sunflower seed. However, don’t be surprised if birds seem less interested in the feeders as nesting season begins. Many seed-eating birds prefer the extra-high protein found in insects and may switch to “fly-catching” during spring and summer.
  5. Put out eggshells for birds. Eggshells help female birds replace calcium lost during egg production and laying. Save your eggshells, dry them out in the oven (1/2 hour at 350 degrees to kill off any bacteria left from egg residue), crumble them into small pieces, and spread the pieces on an open spot on the ground.

6. Offer pet or human hair in mesh bags or put in obvious places. If you looked at a hundred bird nests, chances are that most of them would have some animal hair in them. It’s soft, insulating, and easy to gather. When you groom your pet or get your own hair cut, save the hair to spread around your backyard for the birds to use.

7. Put out short pieces of (soft, breakable) fiber, string, and yarn. For birds that build woven nests (orioles, some sparrows, robins, and others), a few short pieces of yarn can come in very handy during building time. Offer the pieces in a mesh bag or small basket. Keep the pieces shorter than two inches to reduce the risk of birds getting tangled in them.

8. Hold off trimming hedges and shrubs. Lots of species use small hedges and shrubs for nesting. If you see a bird building a nest in such a place on your property, you’ve got a great excuse to avoid this bit of yard work for the next month or two.

9. Provide nest boxes. A well-placed nest box can mean the difference between nesting success and failure for a cavity-nesting bird. It’s hard for many species to compete with starlings and house sparrows, which can take all of the best natural cavities. So, help our native birds by buying a nest box that is specifically made for the bird species you want to attract.

10. Keep your cat inside (and ask your neighbors to do the same). Cats take an incredible toll on songbirds, but low-nesting species and their young are especially vulnerable to cat predation. Do the birds a favor and keep this non-native predator away from places where birds nest. If you can’t keep all the cats out of your yard, try fencing off areas below nest sites or feeders!