When I was a small child, I would often spend weeks in the summer at my grandparents’ house. My grandfather, John, was quite the storyteller, blaming various bodily noises on imaginary bullfrogs, and convincing me and my cousins that the rest of his 8-point buck was sticking out of the other side of the wall. But the story that I am most fond of is that of Myrtle and Earl, the robins that were “Pap’s birds” that stayed with him every summer. It never occurred to me that there were more than two robins in existence; every one that I saw was either Myrtle or Earl, and Pap could always tell them apart somehow. Because I idolized my grandfather, “his” birds became my birds and led to my desire to entice them to my yard even as an adult. I do not bird watch to learn the names and species necessarily, but to simply enjoy their presence.
Attracting birds to your yard is not hard and does not have to be an expensive hobby. There is a wide variety of bird feeders at most home improvement stores and in the pet aisles at stores like Wal-Mart or Target. The feeder that I chose is relatively small and plastic, and for around seven dollars, inexpensive. I also use the cheapest wild bird food that the grocery store carries to limit expenses. A $2.50 bag lasts about a week. In attracting a wide variety of birds, it helps to create different feeding areas, as some birds prefer to feed off the feeder and some prefer to eat off of the ground. I fill the feeder about half-way full and then also pour some seeds directly onto the ground, which also keeps the squirrels from emptying the feeder. The birds that frequent our yard include chickadees, red wing blackbirds, cardinals, wrens, doves, robins and what I believe to be finches. We also get visits from squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits. Everyone’s gotta eat and all are welcome. We have also placed a bird bath near the feeder. There is never a lack of activity under the feeder’s tree and it provides entertainment and learning opportunities for my young daughter.
I have also purchased a hummingbird feeder. I didn’t even realize that there were hummingbirds in our area (I guess that I just figured New York was too cold for those tiny little birds!) until my husband got buzzed by one last month while sitting on our deck. Hummingbird feeders can also vary in price-we saw some that were under three dollars and some over thirty dollars. Again, we found one for around ten dollars and it works just fine. My tips for the hummingbird feeders are simple: hang it near where you can sit and view it comfortably as hummingbirds are hard to see at a distance, and hang the feeder in the shade so that the nectar lasts longer. Also, you do not have to spend money on pre-made nectar, just mix ¼ cup of sugar with 1 cup of water and you are good to go. Just remember to change it every couple of days or when it looks cloudy.
A final way to attract birds to your yard is to hang bird houses. This one didn’t cost us anything as we received it as a gift, but there are a wide range of styles and prices. You do need to consider what kinds of birds that you want to lure to your yard as some houses are suited specifically to certain species. Chickadees have taken up residence in our offering and any day now I am expecting to see the babies that we have been listening to for the last couple of weeks.
Attracting birds to the yard is more of a sentimental experience for me rather than a serious hobby. I get a good feeling knowing that I have helped provide food, water and shelter to my fine feathered friends, remembering my beloved Pap all the while. And some day, when my daughter is old enough, I will introduce her to Myrtle and Earl.