May 20, 2020 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, June 2020

Ask Birdsquatch: Bird Nests and Fur?

Birds naturally use animal fur to line their nests. Photo by

Dear Birdsquatch:

My girlfriend and I have been saving our cats' fur from their brush so we can put it out for birds who are building nests. What's the best way to attract birds to our balcony so that they can find and use it? What's the best receptacle for the fur?

—David F.,
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Dear David,

We furry animals sure enjoy a good brushing. I know I do. On behalf of your cats, thank you! On behalf of the birds, you can easily offer that kitty fur in a mesh produce bag, the kind onions come in. Same for dog and squatch fur, but be sure to offer it in short pieces so as not to risk entanglement. That's especially true for human hair. Cut it into pieces one inch long, max. Do not offer dryer lint (which falls apart too easily and is too absorbent) or nonbiodegradable materials such as plastic, foil, or synthetic fibers. The best nesting materials are natural sources, including plant down; dried grass, leaves, and pine needles; moss, and other natural materials birds will recognize and that their ancestors have used to build nests for countless generations.

Birds naturally use animal fur to line their nests, and if you hang that onion bag in a location near your bird feeders, they'll find it. You can also shove nesting materials into a crack on your deck floor or railing, or in the branch of a tree, on the ground, in an unused suet cage, or just drape it over vegetation.

I hope you live in a lower floor of your apartment. Not too many birds will look for nesting material higher than your local tree tops.

Note that birds don't need our help in finding nesting material. They'll survive without our assistance. But it's a kind thing to do, and makes their lives a bit easier while bringing them closer into our view. It makes me happy when a titmouse lands on my shoulder and plucks a few strands of my coat, even if it hurts a little.

About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.

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  • That doesn't address my concern about the bird houses. I'm on a tiny piece of property (40x100) so there's not much room to plant a heck of a lot or places birds could put nests once the bird houses are gone.
    by Linda DiPierro, Mon, 25 May 2020
  • Plant some native plants in your yard that will attract pollinators and produce berries and nuts. There should be a local society that has a list of recommended plants, shrubs, and trees.
    by Ladylanita, Mon, 25 May 2020
  • Same concerns here. See above post. For your situation I would consider planting a few native plants that will naturally produce berries and seeds that the birds in your area need to survive. Try planting some that will yield foods for all seasons.
    by Ladylanita, Mon, 25 May 2020
  • I've thought about this myself. One thing I considered doing is leaving behind some bird food and a gift card to my local wild bird store with a note asking the new homeowners to please continue feeding the birds. Don't know how well that work but it's worth a try.
    by Ladylanita, Mon, 25 May 2020
  • thanks for the article. I believe that I may have spotted my first hairy woodpecker this morning. we see the downy woodpecker often. it's small. the hairy woodpecker, when compared with the downy, is HUGE. also, the downy feeds at the feeder like most birds--standing upright. This bird, because of its size, hung from the feeder perch with most of it's body below the feeder--like the red belly woodpeckers that we see often. we live is strasburg va. is it possible that we saw a hairy woodpecker this morning?
    by PEretired, Sat, 23 May 2020