Attracting Birds to Your Home by Making a Nesting Ball: An Inexpensive, Family-Friendly Craft That Makes a Great Gift
Currently, I live on two acres of well wooded land in New Hampshire. To our east, directly across the road is a 4 acre parcel of forested land and to our west is the Warner River. Perhaps it is because we reside between these two animal-friendly plots that we are fortunate to have a very large number and variety of birds.
I have yet to create a catalog of the many species we see or participate in the Annual Backyard Winter Bird Survey conducted by the NH Audubon, however, we do our best to attract as many birds as possible by providing the correct food at the appropriate times.
Our home is situated between a cluster of hemlocks and flowering trees, such as a crabapple and a Bartlett Pear. Stretched over the same side as the Hemlocks are the town's power lines where birds are very often perched.
I'm fascinated by the resourcefulness of birds and their adaptations to proper nest construction. Nest building is a critical activity for many birds. Nests provide insulation and concealment among other important functions, not the least of which is a place to keep the eggs.
Birds dedicate hours building nests. Depending on the climate and clutch size or potential threat, the nest size, shape and material can vary considerable
Birds use many different materials to construct their nests. A rather frugal bird had woven a gum wrapper amongst other twigs and grasses in a nest I had noticed last year. Although, the birds do not appear to need any help, I still wanted to offer a sort of 'welcome home' gift to these little creatures that we love watching so very much, so I decided to make a few bird nesting balls.
- Cloth Strips: Use natural fibers as best you can. Use old fabric or old shirts cut into 3-6 inch pieces.
- String: String, twine and yarn cut into 3-6 inch pieces can be quite useful to your feathered friends.
- Twigs and Tiny Branches: Collected from your yard during a day of gardening can be used.
- Grass Clippings: A very common nesting material.
- Hair/fur: Pet hair can be used provided it has not been treated with any harmful chemicals, such as flea and tic medicine. If you have a sheep farm or an Alpaca farm nearby, perhaps you could collect a small bag after a recent shaving. Human hair can also be used.
- All Natural Fibers: Cotton balls (real cotton) can be used, as well as wool.
- Feathers: Feathers from an old down coat or pillow would be great to add to your materials.
- Cattails, Milkweed and Moss: on a recent hike, I collected a bag full of these three items. The cattails were so fat and fluffy. The milkweed had opened and nearly exploded. I though that all three of these items would make for a soft nest.
There are several ways that you can make a nesting ball. In fact, it does not even need to be a ball. Here are a few suggestions of items you can use to to hold the nest building material:
I had a few grapevine balls that I wanted to use. These are very easy to find at your local craft supply store. I also had fabric from a recent quilt making project, so I cut the fabric into thin strips. In order to collect the other materials, I grabbed a bag and headed outdoors for a hike.
Once I had all my materials gathered, I simply began weaving the items into the vines of the ball. I also stuffed some of the material into the center of the grapevine ball. I covered the surface of the ball being careful that the fabric and twine were not too snug or too loose.
How Many Bird Species Have You Counted Near Your Home?
Questions & Answers
When should I put out my grapevine balls for bird nesting?
It really depends on the types of birds that you have in your area. I'm in New Hampshire and the Robins really seemed to use a lot of the materials we put out for them. I would say gather the materials that you have already on hand [be sure that they are healthy, good materials for the birds] and just try a small ball. Watch what they use. For us, they typically would build their nest nearby so we could see the materials. Have fun with it.Helpful 6