🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Spring is nigh - Help your garden birds in their nest-building efforts

Southern Masked Weaver (Ploceus velatus) building his nest in my garden

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.

Cape Robin-chat (Cossypha caffra) 
--> nest and babies in my garden
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.

Birds use a variety of materials to build a strong nest and hold it in place. You can help by putting out supportive materials like:
  • 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
There are numerous ways to offer building materials. We do, however, encourage the use of natural materials to lessen the risk of entanglement in synthetic fibres like netting, twine, or fishing line. Avoid using animal fur that has been exposed to flea or tick treatments or dryer lint because it may contain harmful residues. Keeping all of this in mind when offering building materials will help the birds in your yard produce high-quality, safe, and secure nests.

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!



  1. One of my previous dogs had a double coat of longish hair with what was almost wool underneath. She needed a lot of combing and I could always fill a peanut feeder with nesting material.

    1. A wonderful idea John! Whenever I cut my hair, I also stuff it into a piece of orange bag and the birds just love it! It might be a good idea to visit the barber and ask for all their sweepings!



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