Winter (and what a winter it has been! With snow, hail, floods and tornadoes, not our usual winter weather!) is slowly coming to an end here in South Africa and soon the birds in your garden will be thinking of nesting, and a top priority for them will be nesting materials. One of the best parts of providing habitat for birds in your yard is the possibility of your garden being chosen as a nesting site.
Upon searching "nesting materials for birds", I came upon a wonderful article on Habitat Network, which I'm placing here for ease of reference.
The initial excitement of discovering a new nest tucked away in a shrub you planted, or one perched up on a ledge, is rivalled only by the joy of finding that precious clutch of eggs gently nestled within. The fledglings’ eventual success or failure depends on several environmental factors, some of which you can influence, and some of which are in the hands of the parents and chance.
- Piles of rigid and flexible sticks of different sizes
- Pieces of native grape vine or Virginia Creeper
- A collection of coconut fibres or horse hair
- Mud in a bowl or create a small puddle nearby
Insulation is another very important feature in a well built nest. Heat loss due to wind and wet conditions will cool eggs in a nest during incubation recesses and the parent has to regenerate that heat upon return. You can put out a wide range of insulating materials that birds like to use:
- Wool from sheep, goat, or alpaca, cotton batting, and animal fur
- Grass, hay or straw, and leaf mulch can also be easily offered
- Non-dyed Crafting Feathers are excellent and can be a favourite among Tree Swallows
For hiding the nest, deterring predators and for decoration to help attract a mate, offer:
- Pieces of lichen and moss
- Snake skins and spider webs
- Green Material such as pine needles or sprigs of herbs or shrubs
And, finally, some birds nest in trees and shrubs and are called “open cup” nesters, while others require use of a “cavity” to nest. Historically, these cavities were in dead trees, called snags, but people also provide nest boxes that meet this need as well.
So give the birds in your garden a fighting chance this year by planting indigenous, providing food, water, cover and nesting materials and your joy will be unparalleled!