Have you ever woken up really early in the morning and heard the birds just going crazy? That’s happened to me several times over the past few months and, while I am not a morning person, I cannot help but enjoy the beautiful chaos of all those birds calling out at once. It’s like a cafeteria or an auditorium with everyone talking at once. Or like the instruments tuning up before the concert begins, going through their practice runs when no one is really listening. I love it!
It’s amazing that most of us have so many wild birds living all around us that we don’t even notice. So maybe it’s time to take notice. One way to start doing that is to bring them to your backyard. And if they’re in your backyard already, bring them out of the trees a bit every once in a while so you can see them.
How do we do this? Provide birds with what they need: food, water, and shelter.
Start by bringing the birds in with some good grub. You could start with the standard bag of mixed birdseed that you’ll find at any grocery or drug store. But if you want to give them what they really want, you’re going to have to branch out. Sunflower seeds, suet, thistle, and fruit are very popular with the winged set. Peanut butter, popcorn potatoes or jelly may work too. And don’t forget to try combinations of any of these. Be creative!
And don’t forget the water. Those birds are going to need something to wash it all down with – and something to clean up with too. Standard bird baths work just fine but really anything that will provide a shallow pool of water will do. Dripping water or ponds are even better but may be a bit more difficult to pull off.
Finally, provide shelter to your new neighbors so they’ll stick around. One type of limited shelter is the bird feeder. Put it in a place where squirrels or other ground animals won’t be able to climb or jump onto it easily. Not only does this keep the food away from animals that it’s not intended for, but it allows the birds to enjoy it without fear of being attacked by a predator. If getting the food is not relatively safe, most birds won’t be likely to return.
Some feeders cater to certain types of birds – smaller vs. larger, ones that hang upside down to eat, hummingbirds, and so on. Some feeders use metal mesh to protect the food from squirrels. But don’t worry. You don’t have to go with a high end feeder. If you want to keep it really simple, just elevate a scrap piece of wood and put some holes in it for drainage.
A well-placed feeder can offer some protection from predators but more shelter should be offered if you want birds to nest in your yard instead of your neighbor’s. Take a look at your yard. Brush can serve as a place to hide from predators. Dead wood can provide food or nest materials. And, of course, birdhouses and nest boxes can offer a “permanent” home and a place to raise the kids.
When considering where to place your birdhouse or nest box, survey your backyard and, as with the feeder, look for places where your birds are more likely to be kept safe from predators. Also consider the weather in your area. Which way does the wind typically blow? Try to face birdhouses away from the wind so rain won’t get blown in.
If you’ve done all this and you’re still having a hard time attracting birds, try these tricks:
– Use aluminum foil. Put a small piece on the top of your feeder, nest box or birdhouse. Sometimes all it takes is a flash of light to get a bird’s attention.
– Plant bird-friendly flowers, shrubs and trees. Asters, Black-eyed Susans, Marigolds, and fruit trees are just of the few popular choices. Vines and clusters of trees can provide great shelter which is appealing to birds too.
– Rotate the food selection. Perhaps what you’d offered before wasn’t right for the birds in your area. Try something else and see what happens. Keep changing the food to find out how many different types of birds you can attract. If there’s a certain type of bird you’d like to nest in your yard, figure out which kind of food suits them and stick with that.
Anyone can attract birds to their backyard with only a little effort but great rewards. Begin with the basics and you’ll be well on your way!
Thanks to wildbirds.com for helping me learn the basics.