Helping Birds Decorate Their Nests

Apr 1, 2016


You’ve heard the saying, “Looks can be deceiving.” That statement describes our little terrier’s coat. When you meet him, he looks like a sleek pooch that doesn’t shed. That’s true July through February. However, when the calendar says spring, he gives March Madness a new interpretation.

Most folks who meet the winter Buster love to stroke his silky fur and rub his soft ears. Let them visit before a spring de-thatching, and they’ll wear Buster home. That little guy sheds like a champ. If there were Olympics for losing winter hair, our pet would win a gold medal.

Once we’re well into summer and he’s down to his hot weather duds, I forget about his ability to fill brush after brush with taupe fluff. Throughout the cold months, I don’t think a thing about Buster’s special talent, but come those first warm days, and I remember he’s a nest building bird’s best friend.

As soon as I spy that first filament separating from a follicle, we spend spa time together. I don’t know that he sees getting repeatedly swiped with a grooming glove as pleasurable, but I’m on a mission to capture that loose hair before it gets on me or someone else. He’s just a little guy—only 14 pounds, but he fills the grooming mitt or the wire brush time after time with handfuls of velvety fiber. 

For years, I tossed his winter long johns in the trash as quickly as I gleaned them. Then I heard about folks who harvest their beloved beasts’ hair to spin into yarn to use for weaving or knitting. That seemed over the top even considering how much raw material my little half Jack Russell sloughs off each year. I figure he’s good to supply a child-size sweater.

During my musings, I read that birds line their nests with anything downy, including pet hair. Aha, the ultimate repurposing without purchasing a spinning wheel and the accouterments to take up either knitting or weaving.

Learning to up-cycle my pooch’s fuzz to improve neighborhood bird real estate changed Buster’s spring curse to a blessing.  Instead of being upset that his winter growth falls out, I pledge to capture every strand to share with robins, sparrows, wrens, flycatchers, cardinals, orioles, and even blue jays. 

The minute I spy an emerging strand, I command my four-legged buddy to join me and the brush on the deck. Our joint experience reminds me of vacation advertisements that depict folks enjoying spa treatments on sunny beaches.

Old Sol’s rays beat down to warm the tops of Buster’s and my heads and shoulders while balmy breezes riffle over us. As I comb my little friend to retrieve nest-decorating supplies, I hope my companion enjoys his western Kansas version of a tropical beauty treatment.

Spotting Buster’s fuzzy discards lining a bird nest makes those hours grooming him worthwhile.  I like thinking the coat that warmed him through cold winter days keeps future serenaders toasty and comfy until they fledge into summer skies.