April 24, 2014

From Yarn Scraps to Bird's Nests, Part 2

From Yarn Scraps to Bird's Nests, Part 1, discussed safe bird nesting materials, ways of putting them out, and ideas for containers.

This article details why dryer lint is dangerous, and whether acrylic yarn and synthetic fibers are safe to use.  That decision is open to debate, and to personal choice!

Cedar waxwings with yarn

Side note:  While researching this article, information on chemicals in yarns, fibers, and fabrics arose that are too important to ignore, and sparked two more articles:
Why crochet, knit, & fabrics need washed before giving or selling, Part 1:  Fabrics
Why crochet, knit, & fabrics need washed before giving or selling, Part 2:  Yarns & Fibers

The goal of this article is to present facts so that you can draw your own conclusion.  
Since I am not an expert, I get my information from experts, and cite all my sources.  

The information in this post are excerpts.  
Click the picture or source link to go to the source and view full information.

Nest with yarn woven inIs it safe to use synthetic yarn for nesting material?

According to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Bright yarn safe for bird nests?) :
Birds often use man-made materials for their nests these days. Yarn pieces are OK to put out for birds to use as nesting materials. There are a few things you'll want to keep in mind though:  
Nest made with man-made and natural materials
1) Keep strands at 4" - 6" (10.25 - 15.25 cm) so there's no   danger of wildlife becoming entangled.
2) Natural materials that will biodegrade over the course of time (like cotton or wool) are preferred to synthetic materials.
3) Thin strips of cloth are OK; keep them about 1" wide by 6" long.
4) Birds can see color, so if they use the brightly-colored yarns, they are aware of the colors they are selecting (and they do have choices out there in nature).

...That said, avian predators like crows are visually-oriented and may differentially prey on highly-visible nests.
If you decide, after reading this that using synthetic yarns is not a good idea, don't despair - there are plenty of other alternatives (see From Yarn Scraps to Bird's Nests, Part 1)!

Why is dryer lint a dangerous nesting material?

According to Melissa Mayntz, about.com Birding/Wild Birds, in her article, Dryer Lint as Nesting Material, Don't Offer This Dangerous Material to Nesting Birds:
  • Texture: Lint is stripped fibers and has no structure of its own. Because of this, it falls apart easily and will not hold up to the actions of growing nestlings. After wet lint dries, it can be particularly brittle and a nest made of dryer lint will disintegrate.
  • Chemicals: Depending on the exact detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets used, lint can contain perfumes, soap residue and artificial dyes – none of which are safe for birds. The higher concentration of these chemicals in lint can make it particularly toxic.
  • Scent: The fresh scent of warm, dried laundry can be wonderful for humans, and while most birds do not have a strong sense of smell and won't mind the odor, those same scents can attract predators right to a vulnerable nest.
  • Dust: The small particles of dry, loose lint are easy to disturb and can be inhaled by birds, even young chicks. This dust can cause respiratory distress and even choking or suffocation in severe cases.
  • Mold: When lint gets wet, it will retain the moisture for far longer than more natural materials. Not only can staying in a damp nest chill birds, but the wet lint can develop toxic mold or mildew.
  • Stickiness: Wet dryer lint pulls apart easily but will stick to many surfaces and can become caked on birds' legs, feet and plumage. In severe cases, this can disrupt the insulation of a bird's feathers and may have even more harmful effects on the development of feathers in altricial chicks.
  • Composition: While most dryer lint is made up of very small, fuzzy particles, longer threads or hairs can also be part of a mass of lint. Those long pieces can tangle around birds' legs, wings or other body parts, potentially causing injuries similar to the effects of fishing line.*
Nest with yarn, wool, feathers, and more
Nest with yarn, wool, feathers, & more

She goes on to say to clean outside dryer vents monthly, because the movement of the lint from the blowing air attracts birds.  She also gives some handy tips on USING dryer lint, so all is not lost!

My Personal Opinion (MPO)

Chipping sparrow gathering threads from fabric scrapsI want to use pretty, bright acrylic yarn.  I realllly really do!  To make my decision I mused about two points discussed above:

1) Birds use man-made materials they find all the time.  
MPO:  But darn it, another person made an observation that I just can't ignore.  Do I want to add more litter to the stuff already littered around?  Adding even small amounts of non-biodegradable litter to the environment, no matter how pure the intent, or pretty the cause, may be no different than driving down the road and throwing out cigarette butts and fast-food containers.

2) One safety factor was that the colors may attract crows that will come eat the babies. (!)

MPO:  I think I would have nightmares worrying about crows swooping down on little baby birds only because I put out some bright yarn.  

So, daydreams dashed of prettily colored nests holding happy and grateful singing birds, I'm going to make myself content with the few natural yarns I do use, along with the other items recommended in From Yarn Scraps to Bird's Nests, Part 1 (which, on the big plus side, even sans bright synthetic yarns, the things on the list still make a fab fun scavenger hunt for kids, making it even more exciting for them to use in a nesting material project)!

What do YOU think?

Everyone has the right to make their own decisions.  I celebrate whatever choice you make, and hope this blog helped you make a more informed one!

Just remember that whatever yarn and thread and fabric scraps you put out, be sure to wash them first!   (See:  Why crochet, knit, & fabrics need washed before giving or selling, Part 1:  Fabrics, andWhy crochet, knit, & fabrics need washed before giving or selling, Part 2:  Yarns & Fibers).

On that note, I'll leave you with this industrious little nest-builder, gathering pet hair directly from the source!  
Bird gathering pet hair from the dog!

Until next time!

Footnote:  I am human, and being human, make mistakes.  If you find any, please let me know so I can learn from them, and correct the information for others!

#birds #nesting-material #safety #yarn

1 comment:

Thank you coming by. Your comments and opinions are always appreciated!