Bright yarn safe for bird nests?

Is it safe to put out yarn or fabric scraps for birds to build their nests with? Someone on the (yarn, not birding) website that I frequent has said that the bright colors may attract predators. Is this true or can I keep putting out my yarn and fabric bits for the birds?
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    Robyn (Official Rep) October 24, 2011 14:05
    Hi Dawn,

    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:

    1) Keep strands at 4-6" 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). While I have to acknowledge that when it comes to building nests, birds know what they are doing, there is logic to your friend's recommendation. Offering neutral colors and earth-tones found in nature has little foreseeable downside; however, some birds have learned to associate brightly-colored man-made materials with durability and will choose them over other available materials.

    That said, avian predators like crows are visually-oriented and may differentially prey on highly-visible nests. Whether or not a bird conceals its nest in a good location is beyond our control, but most birds rely on camouflage to help hide their nest. I know of no specific study looking at this yarn question, and this sounds like a great opportunity for you to do an experiment! Why not separate your earth-toned yarn scraps from the brightly-colored ones, and offer them side-by-side to birds (perhaps in empty suet cages)? Put equal amounts in each, and record which ones get depleted faster. Perhaps you know a kid who would like to help!

    Best,
    Robyn
    NestWatch Project Assistant
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  • I used to have small birds, and the bird club said not to give them acrylic yarn for their nests because the fibers were too small; they wrap around the baby's legs and cut off the circulation so that they die. Natural fibers I think would be OK. Rayos
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