Because it falls in February, Valentine’s Day has always been associated with mating birds, particularly blue tits in the UK and bluebirds in the USA!

Antique Valentine’s card from USA depicting bluebirds

According to data from the British Trust for Ornithology, in 2016, there were 3.3 million pairs of blue tits in Britain and blue tits are most frequently seen in gardens during January, in around 93% of gardens.

If you have seen these birds recently, you will have noticed quite a lot of flirting – blue tits find a mate around now, by really ramping up their singing and showing off! Unlike other songbirds, they only have one opportunity to raise a brood as they have to time it when the caterpillars are around! Blue tits normally nest around March which is when they have peak food availability – the tiny caterpillars have also hatched to feast on fresh tree leaves.

If the emergence of tree-munching caterpillars is delayed or unseasonably early (or the weather is too warm for the time of year due to climate change) then blue tits can start building as early as January to try and get a headstart. Last year, sadly, many blue tit nests were started early but then abandoned when we had a cold snap which meant that many birds started again later on.

If you want to help blue tits or any birds in your garden, you can provide a nestbox and feeding station.

I know – it’s a green bird, not a blue tit – but it is still cute!

Blue tits regularly use nest boxes with a 25 millimetre entrance hole. The best orientation for a blue tit nest box is facing north-east. A plan for building a blue tit nest box can be found on the BTO website.

Observing the to-ing and fro-ing of adult birds, then the chicks and then watching them finally fledge, is a special thing to witness.

You could also put out a nesting bundle, and watch as birds take the materials to use in their nests.

A nesting bundle could be a mixture of different materials and could include dry grass, fluffy seed heads, straw, feathers, wool and thread. Then cut the end off a forked stick. Wrap the materials for the nesting bundle around the stick. Add more layers until a large bundle is formed (keep the lengths of the wool and string short) then tie the bundle with wool to a branch!

NOTE: make sure that you don’t include human hair (too thin, poses a risk of entanglement) or pet hair (may have residues of flea treatment) in the bundle.

For now – enjoy the dawn chorus on St. Valentine’s Day with your loved one, and think of those millions of birds all listening out for the song of their future mate, and building a nest together.

Vintage cards pictured above from a selection on Pinterest