Once you have put up a bird box you can further encourage birds to use it by putting out some nesting material in your garden. Different birds will use different materials to construct their nests so by putting out a variety you will be helping different species of birds.
Nests help cushion eggs from the ground and the weight of the parent birds. They also insulate the eggs against temperature changes as well as keeping them together for maximum heat efficiency. Nests also help camouflage eggs from predators.
The birds in your garden will commonly use grasses, twigs and sticks to construct their nests. Leave piles of grass clippings and the twigs and leaves from pruned shrubs for birds to make use of.
Nests are usually lined with a soft material so if you have any pets after you have groomed them leave any fur or hair outside. You can also buy wool nesting spirals which you can hang around your garden. You could even out your own hair collected from your hairbrush.
Other materials you can leave out that birds will use for their nests include small pieces of cloth, dental floss, strands of cotton, pieces of string, feathers, shredded paper, cotton wool and straw.
Drape the material over trees and shrubs near where your bird box is sited or fill a bird feeder with nesting material. Don’t place it near your feeding area as conflict can arise between nesting and feeding birds. Alternatively you could use a small mesh bag but don’t use one made of nylon as birds can get caught in it.
Don’t leave out any foliage that has been treated with pesticides or weed killers including pet hair that has had flea treatments.
Cut pieces of string and cotton into short lengths so that birds don’t get tangled in them and make sure they are made of natural materials.
Make sure the nesting material is clean and dry so place in a sheltered spot where possible.
As well as birds using the nesting material to make nests in your garden you may see a lot of other birds who visit your garden to gather bits of material to take to another place where they have built their nest.