At this time of year, many birds begin building their nests, and you’ll start to see them transporting caches of building materials to their chosen nesting sites. Nests have one primary purpose – to contain clutches of precious eggs, and then later, to protect the defenceless young that hatch out of them. But despite sharing an identical purpose, nests vary greatly in shape, size and construction.

In the garden, you’re most likely to encounter the nest of a blackbird, robin or member of the tit family. Robins nest in holes and crevices. Gaps in trees and tight spaces amongst fences and climbing shrubs are favoured, although robins are also famous for building nests in more unusual places such as old wellington boots! The female bird builds the neat, cup-shaped nest alone over the course of about three days, from dried grasses, leaves and mosses. During this productive time, the male supports the operation by providing food for the female. A robin may have two to three broods each season, and will build a new nest for each new family.

During February, blue tits also begin to start searching for a cosy cavity in which to nest. They will readily set up home in nest boxes in gardens. Nests are created by the female and made from moss and leaves, with a soft lining of feathers, hair and fur. Remarkably, the tiny blue tit lays an average clutch of between eight and 12 eggs, laying one egg each day. Timing is crucial: with so many young mouths to feed, blue tits aim to raise their families when caterpillar populations are at their highest during May. 

A female blackbird will spend up to two weeks creating her more substantial nest from twigs, grasses and other plant material, reinforcing and lining it with mud. Preferred nesting locations are in thick vegetation such as dense shrubs and hedgerows which offer protection from predators. Blackbirds lay two or three clutches of eggs each season, and male birds will often care for the young while the female prepares for the next brood. 

One of the most attractive nests you may come across is that of the long-tailed tit. Built by both the male and female over the course of around three weeks, this oval-shaped masterpiece is constructed from moss and hair bound together with spider silk and covered with delicate lichen. It is then lined inside with over 1,000 feathers to create a soft mattress for the tiny inhabitants. Nests are usually made within thick vegetation such as gorse or hawthorn. 

Watching birds collecting nesting materials and constructing their nests is fascinating, and becomes even more rewarding if you are able to witness them raising a family in their new home. You can help support birds during this busy time by continuing to feed them high-energy foods and also providing a supply of nesting materials for them, such as pet fur or short lengths of wool.  

If you are lucky enough spot a nest whilst out walking - or in one of our woodland sites - it’s important to remember to watch or with binoculars and not to get too close, as disturbance can cause birds to abandon their beautifully crafted nests.