This is the Only Bird Nesting Material You Should Put Out

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Birds are natural architects—they don’t need our assistance to build a nest—but here are some safe bird nesting materials you can offer.

bird nesting materialCourtesy Elizabeth Howard
Cactus wren gathering nesting material

The Best Bird Nesting Material

Springtime is nesting season, and birds will be busy. Growing plants that offer shelter and leaving natural debris around your yard for bird nesting material are the best ways to care for nesting birds.


An abundant material in yards with trees, twigs can be left where they fall or stacked in a tidy pile. Learn about 8 different kinds of bird nests and how to spot them.


Keep moss from blowing away by sticking this nesting material in a crevice of a tree or shrub.

Dried Grass Clippings

Be cautious about using treated grass clippings. Fertilizers and pesticides have the potential to harm birds. Check out 5 ways to create a bird-safe backyard.

Dead Leaves

To keep dead leaves in place, mix them in with heavier materials such as sticks. Psst—fall leaves also make great mulch for your lawn.

Plant Fluff

The white down from cottonwood trees or cattails is a valuable soft material for nests.


In spring when it’s too warm to serve suet, stuff strands of straw into a suet feeder for birds to pluck as nesting material.

Pine Needles

Dried needles are among the bluebird’s preferred nesting materials. Learn when bluebirds nest and lay eggs.

bird nesting materialCourtesy Sonia Lichten
A female goldfinch gathers nesting material near a stream

Unsafe Bird Nesting Materials to Avoid

  • Plastics: Bits of plastic will not break down, contributing to pollution.
  • Yarn or string: Strands get caught on birds and become dangerous.
  • Dryer lint: Birds stuff this in their nests, but it dissolves in rain.
  • Human hair: Just like yarn or string, it’s strong and can wrap around baby and adult birds.

Next, discover how orioles weave elaborate nests and learn about hummingbird nests.

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Rachel Maidl
Rachel Maidl is a senior editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. She enjoys bird-watching in her urban backyard and local state parks, gardening for pollinators and researching new plants. Her favorite backyard visitors are the bumblebees that visit her sedums.