May 2, 2018 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, June 2018

Spring is Here! How to Help Nesting Birds

American robin nestlings.
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With the breeding season in full swing, it's a perfect time to do a few simple things to make your backyard more nesting-bird-friendly. Here are a few suggestions:

Birdbath: Provide moving water for birds in hot, dry weather. Clean out a plastic half-gallon or gallon milk jug and fill it with water. Use a rope or wire to hang it from the handle, suspended over a shallow birdbath or unglazed ceramic plant basin. Poke a pinhole in the bottom and loosen the cap until the water begins to drip out slowly into the shallow, water-filled basin below. The drops and ripples will attract birds!

Nesting Material: Human or pet hair, cut into lengths shorter than three inches, is irresistible for nest-building birds such as chickadees and titmice. Yarn or alpaca fiber can be just as attractive, but remember to cut the pieces short to avoid tangling up nestling legs.

Eggshells: Save your eggshells to offer to the birds. Wash out shell halves and dry/sanitize them on a cooking sheet inside an oven set at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Once the shells cool off, put them in a jar or other container and crush them with a wooden spoon. Spread the small eggshell bits on the sidewalk, driveway, garage roof, or deck railing for your backyard birds to discover. Bluebirds, swallows, goldfinches, thrashers, and other species will relish this source of calcium, depleted in female birds by egg laying.

Check out the June 2018 issue of Watching Backyard Birds for some more nesting birds advice.

Wishing you a successful nesting season!



About Bill Thompson, III

Bill Thompson III is the editor of Bird Watcher's Digest by day. He's also a keen birder, the author of many books, a dad, a field trip leader, an ecotourism consultant, a guitar player, and blogger.

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  • I had a pair nesting for the first time this year at our farmstead in South Dakota. Boxes put out for Bluebirds which didn't come, but these were a very pleasant consolation.
    by fluffypeanutcat, Tue, 25 Sep 2018
  • This is a good point. While cleaning mine, I kinda got the impression the cheep cheeps were waiting on me since they started chirping as soon as I brought it outside again. I swear they are so smart. Within five minutes of filling the feeder up, they are there to feast.cheers Cheep cheeps!
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 20 Jul 2018
  • Hahaha, I love the ending remark "that area will have already been well -fertilized!"I've noticed that there are more cheep cheeps right after I clean the bird feeder compared to how many there are right before it was cleaned...so cheep cheeps do like and appreciate a well maintained feeder and they are worth the effort. : )
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 20 Jul 2018
  • The storm saying seems true so far. We had as party at our bird feeder right before our last storm... 6 at once but different cheeps cheeps would come and go so there were more than 6 for sure..and squirrels eating with the birds
    by Kimber timbers, Fri, 13 Jul 2018
  • I know and do clean my feeders both for seed and for hummingbird liquid. I have a vase full of different size brushes that are only for this purpose. I have friends however who NEVER clean their feeders or bird baths, and it’s gross! I am ringing this article and will have to give out to the few offenders I know. I can’t imagine looking at such mess and not cleaning it, but not everyone thinks resale. Part of responsible bird watching/loving is to make the time and take the effort to do this.
    by Carol, Tue, 10 Jul 2018