Thursday, May 07, 2009

Nest Building & Mohair

Nesting material dispenser filled and ready for action.

One of the many blessings of being the editor of Bird Watcher's Digest is that I sometimes get sent products to try out and provide feedback on to the manufacturer. Many of these products are great ideas that never make it in the marketplace for one reason or another. Others do make it and become part of the vast landscape of bird-watching and nature products.

I do my best to look all of them over and offer my opinion. But I don't always "get" what the products are about, so some of them inevitably get sent back, or donated to bird clubs or school nature groups. And some of them find a spot in our very messy garage.

I have no idea when BWD received the BirdNEST FEEDERS of Loretta's Blue Star. I happened to find the package while working on my tractor a few weeks ago, and saw that this product was a way to offer nesting material to birds. Since spring was about to be sprung, I took the dusty package outside for a better look. Inside was a foot-long piece of tree branch with quarter-inch holes drilled through it; a package of white animal fur, and an eight-inch piece of copper wire with one hooked end. The white fur was all-natural mohair fiber from Angora goats, which the packaging told me lived on the manufacturer's family farm in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho.

The instructions were easy enough: poke some mohair into a hole and pull it through using the copper hook, so it hangs loosely out of both sides of the log. Place dowels in some of the adjacent holes for birds to use as perches, slip the chain through the screw-eye and hang it near your bird feeders. In three minutes I had all of these things done and decided to hang the new attractant on the deck, near the suet-dough feeding station used by titmice, chickadees, and nuthatches.
Tufted titmouse gathering mohair from the dispenser.

Just hours later, I had my first customer. A tufted titmouse. Its mate watched excitedly from nearby as the titmouse tugged and pulled a huge bill-full of material out of the hole. I got a few images and tried to get some video—so far no luck due more to my schedule than the birds' interest. When I got back from a week away, most of the mohair was gone.

I like to think that some tufted titmouse eggs are nice and toasty, nestled in mohair inside a tree cavity on our farm. It's been a cold spring and I could use a little mohair myself.

Seeing how effective this homemade product was, I got online and looked for birdNEST FEEDERS of Loretta's Blue Star, Bonner's Ferry, Idaho, to see if the product was still being made. No accurate results were found, unfortunately, and the packaging has no contact information, so I can't point you in the direction of the manufacturer. But I can encourage you to make your own nesting material dispenser. You can re-create this idea, or simply offer a basket or mesh bag of hair clippings for the birds to work into their nest building. A few years ago we put out a small wicker basket of Phoebe's red hair trimmings and watched the front yard chipping sparrows gather it up. That fall we found their nest in the Japanese maple tree, completely lined with red hair.

Just remember that pieces of string or fiber longer than 2 inches are a potential tangling hazard for nestlings, and things like dryer lint and felt retain water rather than shed it. For this reason I think the fine strands of mohair, with their water-shedding and heat insulating properties, might be a good compromise. Our titmice surely seem to love it!

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At 6:10 PM, Anonymous MaineBirder said...

Clever idea! We use a suet basket filled with cat and dog hair.

At 7:38 PM, Blogger Wren said...

Thank you both for inspiring me to recycle my cat's shedding instead of throwing them into the trash.

At 8:32 PM, Blogger Wanderin' Weeta said...

Wonderful idea! I'm going to make me one of those.

At 9:26 PM, Blogger Erik said...

Dad takes a mesh bag to the barber. They are more than happy to let you take "free samples". Dom, Tony, Marco, and Luigi (doesn't everyone have the stereotypical Italian barbershop?) just roll their eyes at the crazy guy. The birds empty the bag in no time.

At 10:11 PM, Blogger Mary said...

I like the mohair better than what I have hanging now. A six inch ball of cotton from WBU. The birds like it, it stays dry, but the mohair looks nicer.

At 10:55 PM, Blogger Julie Zickefoose said...

Much nicer for the titmouse than having to pull the hair from a live mo.

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Heather said...

That's fantastic! We use a mesh onion bag and fill it up with our dogs' hair. The titmice and nuthatches LOVE it! I even saw a Ruby-throated Hummingbird sneak away with a little beak-full of it the other day! The bag's already been emptied twice this season.

At 11:23 AM, Blogger NCmountainwoman said...

We just put the dog hair in the tree branches and watch the birds flocking to them. We have used a small suet basket as well, but sticking the hair in the trees does the job. That long, silky, Golden Retriever hair makes a wonderful lining. Perhaps that's why the Titmice leave our live mos alone as well.

At 9:14 PM, Blogger elizabird said...

I once found a hummingbird nest lined with my nephew's hair...after a haircut I threw his hair into the yard...That was his last haircut before graduation. When i found the nest we took it as a good was.

At 9:53 AM, Anonymous Jeff Jones said...


That is absolutely the coolest thing! That's one thing I forget to do every nesting season and need to change.

I love those little birds. They always find a way to make me laugh.



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