In spring, many birds are on the lookout for materials to build their nests. Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Eastern Phoebes, Barn Swallows, American Robins and Wood Thrushes all use mud and a variety of other construction materials in their nests. Depending on the weather and location, however, those materials may be in short supply.
You can encourage birds to nest around your property if you provide sources of mud and nest-lining materials.
- Choose a spot at the edge of a flower or vegetable garden to establish a mud hole.
- Use a hose or a bucket of water to wet the earth.
- Squish the soil using your hands, a stick or a shovel, until it reaches a muddy consistency.
- Try to find clay soil. Don’t worry if the mud contains small bits of grass or other plant fibres.
- Stuff a mesh onion bag with materials such as dead twigs, pine needles, leaves, feathers, moss, dry grass (as long as it’s chemical-free), strips of bark, and plant fluff from plants such as cattails or cottonwood.
- Hang the bag from a clothesline or tree branch in your backyard.
Some materials that were previously recommended for nesting are now considered unsafe. Do not provide hair (human or animal), string, yarn or loose bits of thread, as birds can become entangled in these materials. Likewise, do not provide pieces of felt or cloth, dryer lint, plastic, tinsel, cellophane or aluminum foil; these can be choking hazards or cause internal blockage.
- Keep the mud hole moist by regularly sprinkling it with water.
- Replenish the onion bag with nest-lining materials as needed.
- Note that you only need to supply these materials when nest building is under way, from March to August.