Each year industrious birds scurry around the forests, meadows and open fields in search of nest building materials. This procedure is all well and good for birds outside the city limits, but for birds that live in or near large cities, nesting materials can be a bit harder to find. Because of this lack of nest building materials bird nests built in suburbs, cities and villages often showcase some very unusual nesting materials.
The upside of using plastic tarp strings is that the bird nests have not deteriorated over the space of several years. The downside, however, is that most birds don’t usually reuse nests and of those birds that do steal other bird nests, most prefer to dislodge nesting birds from new bird nests rather than take over old bird nests.
Nests made out of plastic or other environmental pollutants may take many years to break down. Other problems that may arise include damp bird nests as the plastic will hold in the moisture rather than wick it out the way a normal bird nest might, thereby creating an unfit environment for the eggs and/or baby birds.
Since bird nesting materials can be hard to find, showing a child how to assist Mother Nature by adding additional bird nesting materials to an area where birds live is an excellent yet simple Earth Day project. When human and animal hair and cotton strings and ribbons are incorporated into bird nests, the end result is often quite beautiful.
Simple Earth Day Projects for Kids
For Earth Day projects that a child can complete with little or no effort, ask a child to assist Mother Nature by collecting a few biodegradable items from around the house that would otherwise be discarded. For instance, hair can be collected from hairbrushes, cut in half or fourths, and then dropped outside where a bird will quickly find it.
Other items that work well are string, yarn, cotton ribbon or old denim fabrics cut into thin strips. Cotton is biodegrade and does not pose a threat to the environment. To use ribbon, purchase several spools in a variety of colours. Cut the ribbon into two to four-inch lengths and then scatter the strips around the yard. (Because cotton such as found in denim fabrics fray, causing cotton threads to “loop” out of the material, it’s very important that denim fabric or other cotton fabric is cut into small pieces or strips.)
When placing possible nesting materials into the environment, make sure you use biodegradable items collected from the home or from nearby woodlands. In addition to the above mentioned items, any combination of the following materials will be appreciated by the local bird population.
- twigs or leaves
- pesticide free grass and moss
- pine needles and bits of bark
- cattail and other plant fluff
- animal fur (as long as the animal has not been treated with any type of chemical for fleas or other parasites
Items That May Be Harmful to Birds and Humans
When it comes to Earth Day projects for kids, however, it’s important that children are educated about the project. A child who thinks he is helping may toss all sorts of potential bird nesting materials outside. However, some items can be detrimental to birds and other animals, as well as to the environment. And at least one nesting material that some birds use can be detrimental to humans.
Household materials that might be harmful to birds:
- laundry lint
- cotton from aspirin bottles
- rubber bands
- plastic netting or plastic strips
- lengths of cotton or wool ribbon, string or denim fabric that are wider than one inch and longer than four inches
Woodland material that might be harmful to humans:
- animal scat
- old bird nesting materials
Though some birds include animal scat (waste) in their nest building materials, presumably to keep predators away, animal scat contains parasites that can be dangerous to humans and should be given a wide berth. (Some of the parasites found in animal scat can be inhaled within three feet.) Do not add animal scat to the list of nesting materials collected for your Earth Day project. In the same manner, do not collect or touch wild bird nests, which may contain scat and/or other parasites.