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Help and Advice - Wild Bird Nesting Material

Provision of nesting material for your garden birds is dependent on availability and the type of season we are in. We always provide it, as it fits in with our dog grooming anyway! But if you have to go and buy materials to put out for the birds it is probable that you are incurring an unnecessary expense as the birds will find materials themselves, it is just a help to them if they can find material in one place, not an essential factor.

What does nesting material consist of? well, basically it is anything that wild birds will be able to use in order to either construct, or line the inside of a nest. It serves several purposes.

  • To cushion the eggs from the base of the nest and also from the weight of the parent bird. 

  • Insulation around the nest to maintain constant temperature. 

  • On the outside of the nest the material may be selected for camouflage.

Different birds will use many types of nesting material to build their nests, depending on the size of nest, location and how many eggs it will contain, some birds will use the same nest only once, others will return throughout the season and each year too. Materials that are commonly used are.

  • Twigs and sticks.

  • Dead leaves.

  • Grass clippings and dead grass.

  • Yarn, wool, string, cotton etc.

  • Dog or cat grooming hair, and human hair (cut into small lengths of 1cm) - Long hair can cause injury to the birds.

  • Feathers, both their own and other birds.

  • Lawn moss, lichen and moss form roofs.

  • Pine needles.

  • Mud.

  • Straw and other plant stems.

  • Cotton wool.

You can leave nesting material out for birds in any way you like, the use of a peanut feeder or suet feeder is good, or you can leave it in piles around the yard or hang it from trees, you can put it on a mesh feeder or in a mesh bag. Try several different methods to find the best for your garden.


Now for some things not to do.

Avoid using any material that you are not sure where it comes from, so as to avoid using material that has been treated with pesticides or fertilizers. Be careful with pet hair - donot use if it has been treated for fleas, or grass that has had lawn care products applied recently. If you offer up string, wool or cotton, ensure it is cut into small lengths no more that three inches long, this is to avoid the birds getting their feet or heads caught in the loop. Do not use plastic string or fishing line, these are likely cause harm to the birds. Most materials will dry if they get wet and the birds don't mind, but if you can put a shelter over it then it will be better. To make the most of the potential to attract birds to your garden, put up good nesting boxes and wild bird feeding stations.