Nesting Material: Do’s and Don’ts

First, a retraction.  For the last few years I’ve been stuffing mesh apple bags with laundry lint, an offering for the neighborhood birds and squirrels.  I’m not sure where I originally found the idea or if I came up with it on my own.

I asked about the lint at a recent birding class, and they said that experts no longer recommend it. The owner of our local birding store said it compacts when wet.  According to this Humane Society article it ” crumbles, and it may contain harmful residues from detergents and fabric softeners.”  I use green products in the wash and don’t use a softener so I thought it was fine.  Now that I know better, I’m spreading the word.

Conversely, the birding store suggested offering animal fur.  This seemed  counter-intuitive to me since birds are cat’s prey, but I decided to give it a go.  Instead of tossing the cat fur collected in the brush, I’ve been tucking it into the trees in our garden. Would we have any takers?

The answer is yes, and today I got photographic proof.

With my camera in hand, I saw a bird lift out of the shrubs with something white in her mouth. Could it be?  I snapped from a distance, but couldn’t be sure till I looked at the picture close up.  Sure enough, this bird has a mouthful of Beijing’s fur.  Yeah!!!!

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

So to recap: Laundry lint is bad for nesting but animal fur is a hot commodity. My apologies for leading anyone astray.



24 thoughts on “Nesting Material: Do’s and Don’ts

  1. What a wonderful photo – you are so clever with your camera! I didn’t know about the lint post [either missed it or didn’t retain it – which is the same thing I suppose :-)]

    I am thrilled to have something to do with all his little kingships fur combings and random scatterings – it may help encourage more birds into this urban area, fingers crossed!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the update Alys. I wondered about the laundry product. Luckily, I don’t think any birds took advantage of my wreath. It was fun to make and brightened up our 1 tree thru last winter. I didn’t do one this year, or put out food because there weren’t any winter song birds around. Just crows and magpies downtown. I guess they’ve got to eat too. Kitty hair will be so soft. That’s sweet!


    • I’m thinking of taking the wreath I made and tucking in cat fur, high up in a tree. A few weeks ago I saw another bird trying to pull strands of the remaining white spider webbing from Halloween. I didn’t realize it was still in the tree. It’s down now though.


  3. Sorry to rattle on, but I just fully digested the implications. I get loads and loads of my dog Toby’s fur when I brush him. It forms little “tumbleweeds” that roll all over the deck. I wonder if the birds have used any. They’re so big, they’re almost move-in ready!


    • I’m so happy your here commenting!

      I love the idea of move-in ready. You’re so funny.

      A year ago I spotted a nest at my client’s house (he had a black lab). The nest was lined with black dog hair!


  4. You got a great photo there! Every morning in spring I watch the birds come to our patio and peck up dog hairs off the mat… I have never managed to get a shot of it, but it looks like they have a moustache!


  5. Great catch of the photo. Just too sweet to see that little bird building next from something that would eat it given the chance. I tried putting out lint and saw it compacted so didn’t do it again. Even though I use green products, the lint just stayed on the branch for months. I finally removed it. Thanks for the update.


  6. I’ve always wondered if the birds would use animal fur. One of my cats sheds like crazy but at least her excess fur will now go to good use. Thanks for sharing this helpful info!


  7. Alys, we used to leave Pasha’s always-shedding undercoat outside for any takers – it was meant to help scare the squirrels and rabbits away from our liriope (we had been told the scent somtimes kept them away) but also as housing material for the birds. I used to joke that if we could have found a market for Pasha’s undercoat production, we would be rich.

    I FINALLY got your box of books for the LFL mailed today – I can’t vouch for how good they are since I didn’t read any of them, but hopefully someone will enjoy them! I mailed it media rate so you may not get it in time for the celebration, but it will get there eventually…


    • Julia, thank you so much for sending me those books. I will let you know when they arrive and I’m so happy to have a fresh supply of books for the LFL. Hurray!

      That’s interesting to hear that dog hair may deter rabbits and squirrels. I’ve heard the same is true about human hair. The man that cuts my hair used to save the hair from the salon floor for a gardening friend. Interesting, eh?


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