PSA: Leftover Yarn Is No Good for Nest Building

I know you’ve clicked on this post for one of two reasons: either you’re surprised that yarn kills birds and want to learn more, or you’ve angrily clicked the link to tell me you’ve been providing yarn for birds for years and see no harm. And to both types of people I say, “Welcome!” Did you know that yarn is actually harmful to birds? No? Well, neither did I! Let’s learn together.

Birds are master builders.

Birds really don’t need our help building nests; they’ve been building them without human intervention for quite a while. But I get it. I like to help animals, and so do you. Those birdies have been struggling all winter so the least we can do is provide them a homebuilding assist. But it’s time to rethink the practice of providing those suet baskets bursting with colorful yarn bits. A lot happens once the yarn leaves your sight, and most of us don’t have dedicated nest cams to supervise the birds hatching in our yards.

Why is yarn bad for bird nests?

1. The fibers can get tangled in the bird’s legs, neck, or wings, cutting off blood flow and leading to loss of limbs and death.

2. The birds can choke or form internal obstructions from eating the yarn.

3. It can tether them to the nest.

4. Don’t forget about all of the chemicals that went into your yarn during bleaching, cleaning, and dyeing (not to mention acrylic additives). They may not harm you, but a songbird is much smaller than you are.

5. Your fluffy un-spun fiber is also not good for nests because it changes shape when wet, leaving holes in the nest.

Are there other things you shouldn’t provide as nesting materials? Yes.

• String

• Human hair

• Dryer lint

• Plastic strips

• Tinsel

But fear not! Our dreams of a backyard bird utopia are still possible. If you want to learn which nesting materials are best, listen to the experts: birds. And provide nesting materials from early spring through summer. Some birds nest in early spring, some nest in the summer, and some even make several nests each season.

These finishing touches are such nest goals!

Backyard bird utopia checklist:

• Twigs (rigid for platform nests and flexible for cup-shaped nests)

• Dry grass and straw (chemical-free)

• Mud (many birds, such as swallows and robins, need mud for their nests)

• Pet fur (free of flea- or tick-treatment chemicals)

• Moss, pine needles, bark, and dead leaves

• Provide a brush pile or bushes for hiding places from predators

• Keep your cats inside

• Use animal-friendly alternatives to pesticides and herbicides

Make your windows bird-safe

• Plant bird-friendly plants like cottonwood trees, lamb’s ear, milkweed, and clematis (all of these plants offer fluffy material for nest building)

Together, we can prevent needless bird injuries while giving the animals we love a little helping hand.

Should you find yourself in a wildlife conflict or emergency, visit Animal Help Now to find assistance near you.


Want birds inside without the mess? Check these out!


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