to For those of you who enjoy the comforts of your home but want to experience the thrills of birding, have no fear, I’ve got a solution for you! Bring the feathered friends to your own backyard by following these helpful hints.
1. Treat them with food.
photo credit: Who is looking at whom by Micolo J
Different species of birds eat different things, so it helps to offer a variety of food types. Native plants that bear seeds, berries and insects are the best and most natural way to offer food for wild birds. You can supplement that with feeders. There are many different types of feeding stations to consider such as a platform feeder for ground feeding birds, hanging feeders for perching birds and suet feeders for insect eating birds.
- New Seeds: Black oil sunflower seeds are the best for attracting songbirds to your yard, but other types of seed such as safflower, millet and nyjer will attract different species that aren’t as fond of sunflower seeds. Try adding new seeds to existing mixes or use new seeds alone to see which birds show a preference.
- Suet: If you don’t already offer suet in your backyard, you’re missing out on attracting woodpeckers, nuthatches and other fat-loving birds. Try different blends or make your own bird suet recipe for the birds you wish to attract.
- Nuts: Jays, magpies and titmice love peanuts and peanut butter. Offer whole nuts or shelled nuts as part of your backyard buffet to attract these species, or be sure your seed and suet types also include bits of nuts.
- Fruit: Many birds will sample fruit at your feeders, and different types of fruit are favorite choices for feeding orioles. Fruit chunks such as oranges, apples, melons and grapes are easy to add to platform feeders and will attract many unusual birds.
- Nectar: If you’ve never tried feeding hummingbirds, putting up a hummingbird feeder can bring a colorful surprise to your yard. Orioles, woodpeckers and other species will also sample from nectar feeders, depending on the size and design.
- Natural Foods: Don’t forget to take advantage of nature’s bounty, and add seed-bearing flowers, berry bushes, nectar-rich flowers and other natural foods to your landscaping. Many birds that may be wary about unknown feeders will happily forage among familiar plants. At the same time, minimize or eliminate insecticide use to be sure insectivorous birds have plenty to eat.
2. Add some splish and splash!
photo credit: “splish splash … taking a bath” by roger smith
Birds certainly need water, but they may not always know you have made it available. This is especially true of spring and fall migrants who are just passing through. The best way to “advertise” is to let them hear the water.
- Moving Water: Instead of just a static bird bath, add a dripper, mister or bubbler to create motion. Birds will see and hear the water from great distances, and many curious species will come to investigate.
- Multiple Water Sources: A single bird bath can be very crowded, particularly if it is the only water source for a large area. Add additional bird baths to attract more birds, or add different water features such as a mister in a shady grove or a ground bubbler near shrubbery to attract a wider range of birds.
- Winter Water: Birds can get their water from snow and ice in the winter, but a liquid water source will attract dozens of birds in the cold. Add a simple heater attachment to your existing bird bath or upgrade to a heated bird bath to attract winter birds with a warm drink.
3. Create a cozy home and sanctuary.
photo credit: Tree Swallow by Keith Reed
It is a real treat for backyard birders to observe mating and nesting habits of their favorite backyard species. Offering suitable nesting areas will increase the chances that new birds will find your yard attractive.
- Landscaping: Opt for bird-friendly landscaping that features native plants in tiers or clumps to provide familiar shelter for your regional birds. Add new plants to an unused area of your yard, or increase the density of existing plants for more secure cover. To make the plants do double duty, choose trees and shrubs with seeds and fruits the birds will enjoy as a natural food source.
- Brush Pile: Build a brush pile in a secluded section of your yard to offer instant shelter to birds. Small birds such as sparrows and finches will eagerly flock to a brush pile when they feel threatened.
- Roost Boxes: Adding a roost box to your yard will give backyard birds a safe, warm place to settle on cold winter evenings. Many small birds, including bluebirds, chickadees and wrens will readily use roost boxes.
- Bird Houses: Add a new bird house designed for a specific species to your yard. Check the size of the entrance hole and the other dimensions of the house to be sure it is suitable for the birds you wish to attract.
- Nesting Material: Offer nesting material for your birds to take when constructing their nests. Some birds will prefer weed fluff from dead flowers, while others will take advantage of grass clippings that are left on the lawn. You can purchase balls or squares of cotton fluff and lint that hummingbirds and goldfinches prefer, or you can save hair, pet fur and small pieces of string to offer in a suet cage nester.