For The Birds
Bird watching is a relaxing and rewarding pastime, but you may not feel like hiking through the woods, or waiting patiently for the bird to show up where you can see it. Another option for bird watching is to enjoy the show from the comfort of your own home. Like us, birds have the same basic needs for food, water and shelter. If you provide these for the birds…they will come.
Birds are constantly on the lookout for food. Different species of birds have different food preferences including suet, seeds and fruit. To attract a wide variety of birds, make all types of food available for them. You may also want to include nectar feeders for hummingbirds. There are commercial bird seed mixtures available and these can be spread out onto feeding trays throughout your yard. Make sure you keep them full and make them squirrel proof. Double D Feed and Supply on Tank Farm Road has many different types of bird seed and Dick Gularte, the store manager, says that once you start putting out the seed you will be seeing more variety in your bird visitors.
Many wild birds do not like feeders, so a wonderful alternative to the “fast food” of bird seed is to grow plants that the birds like to eat. With some planning you can have fruit and seeds available to tempt our local birds and our migrating visitors all year long. Spring flowers will bring insects and caterpillars that the birds will feed on, helping you with organic pest control. If you let some leaves fall and stay in place to encourage insects, this practice will also enrich your soil in addition to making meals for the birds. Instead of deadheading all your flower heads, let asters, cosmos, sunflowers and Black-Eyed Susans go to seed. Crabapples, chokecherries, pine cone seeds and acorns are a treat for many birds. Nature arranges for many berries to ripen during the migrating season. Birds are especially attracted to red and toyon, red elderberries and barberry are loved by birds.
Water is another basic necessity for the feathered creatures for drinking and bathing. Keep your water source constant for reliability and keep it clean by rinsing out the birdbath every other day. Since most songbirds can’t swim, the birdbath should have sloping sides that are rough, not slippery, and not be more than 3 inches deep. Be sure to put the birdbath and the feeders too, out in the open so the birds can keep an eye out for your cat or other predators.
And finally, the necessity of shelter. Some birds like birdhouses and there some very cute and whimsical houses out there. A birdhouse should be sturdy and clean with a sloping roof that will protect the birds from weather and predators. Clean it out at the end of the season so it will be ready for the following spring. As with food, there are natural shelters just as there is natural food. Vary the heights of trees and shrubs to fill the needs of different birds. Some birds like to nest in conifers such as spruce, cedar, hemlock and pine. Many birds prefer rough hedges and thickets with thorny plants to give them shelter with protection from predators. Robins and mourning doves may find your arbor or a trellis planted with vines an attractive nesting site.
Your backyard bird haven may not be an overnight creation, but over time you can gradually include bird loving plants as your time and budget allow. Think in terms of layers and lots of variety. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy the show of your feathered friends making themselves at home in your yard.
5 Ways to Attract Birds to your Yard
1. Put out food for them such as bird seed, suet and fruit.
2. Supply them with a consistent source of fresh water.
3. Provide bird houses for them.
4. Provide plants that produce food such as berries, nuts and seeds.
5. Provide natural cover with rough shrubs and hedges.