When a rescue group asked for help caring for baby birds, thousands responded with hand-knitted nests

(CNN)Spring is the busiest time of year at the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue in Indian Trail, North Carolina. With warmer weather comes a new crop of baby birds, and, unfortunately, a new crop of everyday disasters for them to weather.

Nests fall, predators strike, a chick is left behind by its mother, and one way or another several thousand hatchlings end up in the center's care every year.
It's hard work keeping these needy little creatures alive and comfortable.
Last month, the staff put out a simple request on its Facebook page for knitted nests to accommodate the roughly 3,000 baby birds that are expected to come to the sanctuary this season.
    Baby birds? Tiny knitted nests? Handcrafts and human kindness, together in one warm little package? People were smitten.
    The center has posted the request before, but for some reason, its latest attempt caught on. Since that fateful post, the organization has received thousands of little knitted nests from all over the world.
    And you know what? They love it.
    "It's been an amazing community outreach activity," founder and director Jennifer Gordon tells CNN. "People really enjoy doing them, and we get all of these notes with these wonderful stories along with the nests."
    Gordon estimates the center's gotten thousands of the little nests, from as far away as Canada and Japan.
    In fact, she says a man in Japan actually started a knitting group so they could send in a collection of them. The center's nest supply has gotten so large, the staff has had to dedicate part of a storage unit to organize them.
    However, that doesn't mean it wants people to stop.
    "We're finding homes for them. We started a program where we're actually distributing the nests to other organizations," says Gordon. "Other rescues that help other kinds of animals can put them to use; newborn kittens are using them, possums are using them for pouches."
    Aside from the fact that they are unbearably precious, the knitted nests actually provide critical support for fragile young bird bodies.
    "Part of the function of the nest is to contain the babies so they can grow properly," Gordon says. "Anything that's born from an egg will have soft bones. In a bird, the way that their body is structured, the nest puts their body in the position to support the legs. The legs have to be tucked under. If a baby bird is left on the ground, its legs sort of splay outward and that can cause problems."