Making The John Aler’s "Bush" Hanging Nests.

By Marcus Pollard

Way back in 2004 when I was swanning about Western Australia at the invitation of Arthur Orford and the Finch Society of Western Australia I managed to meet one of that states top finch breeder in the late John Alers.

Together with his wife Truis he made one of the most dedicated partnerships in finch keeping that one could hope to meet. The "exploits" from that visit with the Aler’s and the subsequent "trip to Kalgoorlie" are on my website for anyone in dire need of a chuckle!!

One of bird keepings real characters!
During my stay with John and Truis I noticed that he had a number of what I shall call "hanging bunts" - for lack of a better descriptive – which were basically Tea-tree/ Melaleuca tied together with wire and suspended from the ceiling of the aviary.
Many were single units free-standing while others were strung near each other to form a sort of curtain effect.- this I later realized had the effect of dividing the normal aviary configuration into a number of smaller "niches’ if you like which broke up the normal box shape of the aviaries.
These structures were hugely popular with the entire range of cup nesting species that John kept and he showed me a number of Red siskin nests overflowing with youngsters in these bundles.
I was lucky enough to get John to pose for me while I grabbed the video camera and was able to record a step-by-step guide to constructing such bundles. This was often dragged out so that I could emulate his building prowess such that it is now firmly etched in my finch repertoire!!

Upon return to Taswegia and with video camera in hand I made a couple of these bunts and hung them in the aviary and the result was such that several more were constructed in rapid time!
The first one I hung attracted the attention of 2 Yellow siskin hens which built their nest on opposite sides of the structure at the same height – try that with normal Tea-tree against the wall!!!
Unremarkable you say! Well, let me add that both siskins started construction work within 20 minutes of the bundle being hung – good enough incentive for me to build more!!

All my yellow hooded or Mexican siskin’s loved them as did the Oriental greenfinches while the Orange Breast and Rufous-backs were also crazy about them!!
The Orange-breasts favourite trick is to build their nest on the base of the old siskin or greenfinch nests left behind – waste not, want not!

Suffice it to say that all the birds in the aviary nested in them at some stage over the next few breeding seasons. Mind you with all the shutters open they tend to swing in the breeze a little which seems to worry the inhabitants not a bit! For their keeper? Well, that was another matter!

I found these bunts are brilliant for breaking up my own aviaries into different "zones" with a minimum of fuss. Want to close a corner in and thicken it for parrotfinches maybe? Simple! Just build a couple of bunts, tease them out and hang them from the ceiling and hey presto, instant cover!

Also by spacing them you can separate any warring cup nesters and give them extra room to move away from each other.

Not that any of us would allow a mouse problem in our aviaries but these bunts would be perfect in such a situation unless your "meeces" are spliced with Spiderman genes of course!

Great you say, but is he ever going to tell me how to make the blasted things!!

With apologies to John here is the slack persons abbreviated construction manual for the John Aler’s nesting bunts!!

Before starting let me say that the thicker you make them the less the birds like them. Having seen a number of wild finch nests let me say that very few I’ve seen hide their nests away in the thickest parts of the bush. Most just stick their nest in the nearest available thin sapling with very little cover or protection.

In the Kimberley it was possible to drive past Longtail and Double Bar nests and see the occupants sitting staring out from their nests from the car – no need to alight and check the nest out!

I guess a thin sapling is protection against many predators that would seek to climb to the nest as their weight would prevent this happening. However, in thick bush many paths would present for the predator to approach the nest.
The reason I add this is that many of us try to jam as much Tea-tree as possible into our aviaries when, in reality, possible half the amount would give us the same breeding results – maybe even better!!
OK, here we go!

Step1:
Select the desired pieces of brush for your construction. For larger bunts I look for a convenient "Y-shaped" piece that I can tie other narrower pieces to.

Step2:
Measure the length of your bunt and cut an appropriate length of tie-wire remembering that you must tie it around the top at least twice. When purchasing your wire remember that you have to tighten it so that must be factored in when purchasing your tie-wire. No set diameter wire here but might I add that fencing wire is a tad too "tensile"!
Make a loop around all the pieces you wish to tie together and bind them together as tightly as possible.

Once you have done this grab a thin Phillips-head screwdriver (or even a thin long nail) and poke it down inside the wire and then twist the wire into a loop which has the effect of tightening your structure together – be wary of over tightening your loop as cheaper wires will break at this stage.

Step 1 loop of wire around tied securely.

Step 2 inserting screwdriver to make loop & tighten wire.

Step 3 end of wire through loop & up centre of bunch.

Step3:
Draw the long piece of wire through the loop you have made and then up through the middle of your Tea-tree so that it pokes through the top when you stand the bundle upright.
With the bundle upright trim away some of the scraggly bits from the top so that the top is uniform in shape – at this stage try not to include your wire piece in the items that you cut – very annoying doing that!!!

Step4:
Tightly grip near the top of your Tea-tree bundle and wrap your wire around it at least twice pulling as tightly as you can. Then simply thread the end of the wire under the loops you have made and up through the centre of your bundle.
If you wish to spread your bunt out even more you can tightly grip the top section and then, with the base firmly on the ground, you can press down on the entire structure which makes it bow out and THEN tie it off in the way just outlined.
For the record I’ve not had them unravel and deposit their content on the floor but if you are at all worried you can always tie another separate loop of wire around the top and tie it off – just in case you don’t believe me!!!
Trim the top of the bunt with a crew-cut, slam a hook or nail into a roof beam and you are ready to tie the wire off and "hey presto" you have a free-standing
John Alers nest bunt ready to be hung in your aviary!

Step 4 loop wire around top and stitch back through wire and up for hanger.

Hanging in the aviary!!

These are brilliant little structures which have dozens of uses and are popular with most finches, especially the cup nesting variety.

I would like to dedicate this brief article to the memory of the late John Alers who always had time to answer the most trivial of questions and to share with all finch keepers the key components of his success with finches. One of the finest finch keepers it has been my privilege to meet.