The early signs of spring are in the air and across the country birds are preparing their nests and starting to raise new families. As egg-layers, birds need a safe and sheltered place in which to lay their eggs and then incubate them until they are ready to hatch. This must be sheltered from the elements and out of reach of predators – a nest is the perfect solution.
Birds are some of nature’s great architects. From the tiny Wren to the mighty Golden Eagle, species large and small build nests in which to raise their young and each has its own unique spin on their construction. The variation of nests is quite staggering whether built in trees, on the ground and even in some weird and wonderful places. However, what all nests have in common is that they are ideally suited to allowing a specific species to have the best chance of raising its chicks to adulthood.
The wide range of nests built by birds means construction techniques are equally as variable. From a batch of simple sticks to woven strands of grass and mud, all sorts of materials are used in nests, including moss, twigs, leaves, sheep wool, feathers and even spider webs, which help to ensure everything sticks together and is insulated. Watch the birds in your garden at this time of year and there’s a good chance you’ll see more than a few species collecting the resources needed to construct the perfect nest. Some birds will build a new nest each year, while others will stay in use for long periods.
With natural habitats such as trees and hedgerows being lost to development every year and the increase in urban housing, nest boxes are becoming massively important to many species’ survival. If you’d like birds to nest in your garden, you can take advantage of their opportunistic nature by investing in a nest box and erecting it before the next breeding season. Providing the perfect combination of safety and shelter, your local birds will find this too good an opportunity to turn down.
Most birds will do their best to protect their young from potential predators. If they see a threat close to the nest, many species will mob the animal in question. This involves emitting loud alarm calls and flying at the predator, continually harassing it until it leaves the vicinity. Owls and birds of prey are regularly mobbed, but other potential threats such as cats, foxes and even humans can also be treated in this way.
After laying their eggs and incubating them until hatching, the majority of birds will care for their chicks until they are old enough to leave the nest and beyond. This involves providing the food needed for the chicks to grow, which can be a very intensive process – some species, such as Blue Tits, are thought to feed their young every 5-10 minutes throughout the day. You can make this process a little easier by giving your birds a massive helping hand during nesting season by providing them with a regular supply of food. From sunflower seeds, kibbled peanuts and high energy peanut cakes, there is no lack of choice when it comes to bird feeding and you should put out a wide variety of foods.
Not only do adult birds have to find food for themselves, but exert more energy doing the food run for their chicks too as well as finding the right food for them. Garden feeders can make a real difference at this time of year filled with high energy foods. One of the most important options you can provide for birds is live foods. Soft-bodied invertebrates such as worms are an important part of the diet of many British birds. Mealworms, Waxworms and Earthworms are all incredibly rich in protein, making them an ideal food source for birds that are raising young as it provides the vital proteins young chicks need to grow and successfully make it through to adulthood.
Spring isn’t the only time birds will take advantage of live foods, however. Frozen ground can make worms hard to find in winter, so adding some to your feeder can provide a welcome boost to birds’ survival efforts. We understand that the prospect of handling live worms is not for everyone. That’s why we offer a range of dried Mealworms, which provide all the benefits of live food without the creepy wriggles.
CJ Wildlife are lucky to have the benefit of an ‘eagle eye’ on several different bird species whilst they are going through this most important time in their family lives. Our live webcams run 24 hours a day and provide a very up close and personal look into the nests and feeding routines of our favourite birds. The best time to watch is from now until the 1st July when the most activity will take place.
You can also follow CJ Wildlife on Twitter @CJWildlife and Facebook to keep you up to date with all the latest news from the nests.
CJ Wildlife stock a range of bird food, feeders and care products as well as gifts for the home and you can benefit from a 10% discount using the code UKHPET18. Visit www.birdfood.co.uk or call FREEPHONE 0800 731 2820 to find out more.