A brush pile is a place for birds to hide from predators and take shelter from extreme weather. It will also attract a variety of other wildlife that will hide in it, nest in it, or even eat it. Mound shaped brush piles range in size from about five feet (1.5 meters) in diameter to four or five times that size. The edge of a wood or field is a perfect place to build one.
The aim of a brush pile is to provide bird shelter by maintaining entrance openings at the base of the structure and heaping a protective mound of dead plant material on top. As the finer brush on the top breaks down, it supports a variety of insect life as well as worms and other creatures that eat decaying plant material. These, in turn, attract more birds and other small animals.
Build the base of the brush pile using six inch (15 cm) logs or thick rocks. Lay the rocks or logs side by side but with six inch spaces between them to create doorways into the interior of the pile. Design open passageways inside to create good shelter for birds: with logs, lay a second layer perpendicular to the first. To build in more bird shelter, top the base with mid-size branches, locking the branches together to create lots of cavities and perches.
Top off the brush pile with four or five feet of finer brush and fibrous woody plants. Lay it on thicker and thicker to form a solid barrier between the bird shelter and the outside world. Remember that you want the brush to provide shelter for birds from rain, snow, wind, and predators. If the pile is in a place that receives enough light, you can plant vines to grow over the top for extra cover. This will also make it a more attractive piece of backyard bird habitat.
When the brush pile is complete, leave it alone and let it settle. Some additional top brush may be necessary to perfect your bird shelter, but then all you’ll need to do for several years is top it up as the finer material breaks down – and watch for wildlife to move in. Eventually, when the larger pieces of wood break down and block the entrance holes, you will have to rebuild it, but in the meanwhile, enjoy your new backyard bird habitat.
Rosemary Drisdelle is a freelance writer specializing in science writing and creative non-fiction. She is the “Birds” writer at Suite101.com.
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