Put out Nesting Materials and Nest Boxes March 1

abandoned bird nest
abandoned bird nest

March 1 is the date to put out nesting materials and nesting boxes. The winter resident birds are in courtship and nesting mode. Since these birds winter in your neighborhood, they can pick the prime nesting spots and early insect food before the migrants arrive.

Cavity Nesters Need Nest Houses

Birds that use nest boxes are cavity-nesters meaning they nest in holes in trees. This includes Bluebirds, Woodpeckers, Titmice etc. Some nest in snags or standing dead trees.

If you have the space, you can place nesting boxes in your backyard habitat. Each bird species because of its body size requires specific nest box dimensions. If you don’t have a place to put up a nest box, you can still put out nesting materials.

Nesting Materials to Put Out for the BIrds

But even many cavity-nesters place soft cushiony materials in the bottom of their nests to provide a soft holder for their eggs. Both cavity nesters and nest-builders will use the nesting materials you offer.

Many of these items can be bought at craft stores or gathered from around the house. Choose the materials that are the most natural, without dyes or chemicals.

  • straw
  • cotton string or twine (cut in length less than 6″ to avoid tangling or strangling a bird or chick)
  • fresh moss (gathered from the outdoors)
  • dried sphagnum moss
  • Spanish moss
  • onion skins
  • sticks and twigs
  • mud ( a human made mud puddle will attract mud-nest building thrushes)
  • vines (cut into short lengths)
  • ferns
  • soft feathers
  • fur or hair (animal, human, horsehair, horse etc.)
  • un-spun sheep’s wool
  • dried grass and leaves
  • paper strips (cut 1″ wide, 8″ long – recycled is fine)

Place these materials in easily accessible places. Dead leaves, twigs, moss, etc can be placed under bushes or on the ground. Some items can be hung in mesh bags and hung from poles and in baskets. Experiment. I don’t have nest box hanging space in my city backyard, but my selection of nesting materials is always popular.

Nest box in the Wissahickon Forest in Philadelphia
Nest box in the Wissahickon Forest in Philadelphia


More Information on Backyard Bird Nesting

Citizen Science – NestWatch (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

What is a Naturalist’s Garden?

Water in Your Backyard Habitat 

Building Nest Structures, Feeders, and Photo Blinds (pdf)

Landscaping for Nesting Birds – Cornell Lab of Ornithology

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