It’s spring and already the chirps of winter birds have changed to songs that attract mates and define territories. Soon the migratory birds will be arriving to join them and beginning their yearly nesting ritual. Backyard birders can help ensure the success of the next generation of wild birds by providing five nesting-specific needs.
Nesting boxes and shelves: Putting up nesting boxes gives cavity dwellers, those birds who would otherwise nest in natural holes in trees or in old woodpecker holes, a place to nest where trees are scarce. Different birds are attracted to different types of housing. Duncraft offers a complete guide to bird house types and placement on Duncraft’s Wild Bird Blog. Nesting shelves suit birds who prefer not to nest in cavities, but rather build open cupped nests attached to branches of trees or in the crotches of limbs. Robins and doves are two birds that readily use nesting shelves.
Tree snags: When taking down dead trees, it’s desirable to leave the majority of the trunk, as long as it doesn’t pose a danger. Woodpeckers are a primary cavity excavator and use these snags to hollow out nesting areas. Although woodpeckers will not reuse a cavity the next year, these holes become prime nesting locations for smaller cavity nesting birds such as chickadees, nuthatches, wrens and others.
Nesting materials: Putting out nesting materials such as cotton, moss, string and animal hair eases the nest-building process and may also help keep inappropriate materials, such as plastic or dryer lint, out of the nest.
Suet: Suet supplies busy parents with the energy they need for nest building, raising young and foraging for them. Any type of fat is beneficial. It can be beef suet or even vegetable shortening. Peanut butter also supplies high calories. Baby birds can digest suet and parents will typically take chunks of it back to the nest. Suet-based pellets are also a practical alternative.
Insects: Newly hatched baby birds can’t digest seeds, so parent birds spent a lot of time foraging for insects to feed them. Offering birds insect foods such as live or dried mealworms, waxworms, or even fly larvae and the like, makes it easier for birds to supply their young with enough protein food for healthy growth.