John Sterling Poole
Making Mama Bird's Life Easier
We all can agree that motherhood is a beautiful thing. We can appreciate it in our own homes, and we can appreciate it our yards! Nesting season is such an exciting time of the year. where we see natural instincts, cooperation, and intricate behaviors. It is also a time of intense work and effort done by the parents. There are tons of moving factors that could affect a nest and the fledglings. People can make a word of difference for the parent birds. This post will review all of the things you can do to make nesting easier for the birds!
Let's get the obvious out of the way: have a constant water source, high energy foods (peanuts, suet, and BarkButter products), and mealworms. All of those products and yards features will make a bird’s life year round easier, but nesting season is such an important time of the year. Making sure all of your feeders, houses, and baths are clean will ensure that all products are in tip-top shape. Birds also require higher amounts of calcium to help egg strength. One easy way to provide them with calcium, besides using blends that include calcium bits, is to place egg shells out in your yard. Just be sure to bake the shells at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes to kill all bacteria on the shells. Then throw the shells out onto your lawn after they have been broken down to pieces smaller than a dime!
Speaking of houses, putting out proper housing for your birds makes all the difference. In fact, due to people putting out nesting boxes, bird populations are increasing after long periods of decline due to loss of habitat. Now most folks put out only bluebird boxes without realizing that there are a multitude of houses that they can provide for birds. Owl houses and duck houses are great and unique. They are usually the most common behind bluebird houses in regards to recognition. However, there are also woodpecker, chickadee, kestrel, Purple Martin, and wren houses. Putting those out will also greatly improve the quality of life for birds all around your ecosystem. Also, there are butterfly houses, although they should be called shelters since that it only reason they will be used, carpenter bee houses, and bat houses. All of these will help create a better, healthier environment in your yard.
Building nests is another challenge parents are presented with during nesting season. You can make a huge difference in the gathering and constructing process. The easy way would be to put out a nesting ball which is cotton, feather, and lent all compacted together into a ball. Pine needles are great for nest building, so leaving that in your yard will help them greatly. Brush piles are great as well since they offer several of the materials that birds require. Anything natural that you can leave in your yard is great for the birds!
While I must seem like a broken record talking about this, it must be said: avoid pesticides/insecticides. Soon-to-be parent birds are looking for yards that are natural and normal. Insects play a huge role in an ecosystem as food sources and pollinators. The lack thereof could be the deciding factor between a bird nesting or going. Natural habitats also include local plants instead of foreign ones. Consider researching the local flora and fauna for your area before going into your flowerbeds.
Up to this point, we have only discussed what to do to encourage birds to nest in your yard. Now we are going to talk about how to help when the eggs hatch. If you are dedicated to this subject, I would encourage you to read our other article about fledglings! This is the most exciting time for folks! They get to watch the miracle of flight be learned, but there are several things one can do to assist in this process!
Above I mentioned brush piles as great sources of nesting materials, but they can also help immensely with fledglings. If you leave a brush pile between the bird house and the feeder, birds will use the pile as a halfway point. This allows the birds to rest which is crucial for both the parents and the fledglings as tons of energy is expended during this time.
As always, continue to feed the high energy foods and provide the water source though this time. The amount of energy and time spent searching for food can be saved for other activities if you provide them an adequate supply of foods.
Lastly, once the babies have left the nest, be sure to take out the previous nest. Birds do not reuse nests. Instead, they build on top of the old ones which can become a real issue with drainage, ventilation, and bacteria. I recommend breaking up the old nests and spreading the contents around your yard. The birds just might reuse some of the materials which would make their lives easier. Removing the nest ensures the safety of the birds, the cleanliness of your nesting box, and the reintroduction of materials to your yard.
Hopefully these steps helped you realize some ways to help your birds out in your yard! We all know how hard parenting can be (especially now!), so we might as well make it easier for the birds in our yard!
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