How to offer birds nesting material

Song bird laying in a nest

Cultivate a renewed sense of wonder about backyard birds when you provide natural, biodegradable, pesticide-free nesting materials. (Photo: Ben Mullins via Unsplash)

When spring arrives, you can cultivate a renewed sense of wonder about backyard birds.

Attract birds with nesting material! It will complement other rewilding efforts like pollinator-friendly gardening, erecting a bee home and planting a butterfly garden.

From hanging nests to cup nests and those hidden inside man-made bird houses, they all need a combination of twigs, dried grasses, moss, hair, mud and even spider webs.

Nesting materials for a birds nest

Step 1: Collect

Collect natural, biodegradable, pesticide-free nesting materials like:

  • Dog fur (free from flea and tick treatment chemicals), horse hair (clean their brushes) or wool. DO NOT use human hair.
  • Moss.
  • Dry grass (not unlike what you need to create a bumblebee nest).
  • Cattail fluff.
  • Twigs and strips of bark.
  • Dried leaves (maybe a few from your butterfly nursery).

Don’t use:

  • Human hair (it’s too thin and can cut or tangle birds).
  • Yarn or string.
  • Dryer lint (it’s a bit of a chemical soup and could contain plastic microfibres).
  • Synthetic fibres.
Robin sitting on porch holding moss in it's beak

Step 2: Combine

Add a handful of materials to a mesh onion, avocado or lemon bag. Tie it closed. Cut off for any loose plastic threads on the bag to avoid adding more plastic pollution. Plus, you don’t want birds to get tangled.

Blue bird eggs in a nest in the trees

Step 3: Display

Hang, tie or tuck the mesh bag offering in the crook of a tree or shrub where you’ve seen bird activity. It’s best to secure it to avoid the upcycled plastic leaving your yard. Also, it’s preferable to be sheltered from the rain.

Bird building a nest in a birdhouse

Step 4: Replenish

Replenish as needed from March to approximately July.

Grey brid sitting on branch with pink flowers


  • You can buy bird-nesting material at wild bird stores or where bird seed is sold. Most contain cotton, hemp and wool fibres or fluff!
  • Fill your cleaned metal suet feeder from winter with nesting material, or repurpose a metal kitchen whisk.
  • Swallows and robins also use mud. It’s excellent to keep a patch of bare ground and exposed soil. (Native mason bees and butterflies also need mud puddles.)

Grow bird-nesting material

“Rewild” your yard with native plants, trees and shrubs. And leave parts of your yard messy for pollinators while ensuring ample bird-nesting material is available — twigs (under 10 centimetres), dried grass and moss.

The following trees can help (also observe birds to see their local preferences):

  • Catkin-bearing species of trees and shrubs: cottonwood, maple, willows, poplar and beech. Catkins are the flowering spike with a fluffy or downy quality.
  • Native plants specific to your region can help bird species find what they’re looking for. For example, milkweed is a popular nesting material for birds throughout its range.

Caution: Spring can also be a time to prune trees and shrubs. Watch carefully for tiny nests like those of hummingbirds. If you find a downed nest (after a storm event), or a nestling or fledgling on the ground, learn what to do.