How to Go Birdwatching in Your Own Backyard
Birdwatching is a popular past time for many people. In fact, it is the number one spectator sport in the world. You don`t have to go trekking into the wilderness to go birding. You can do plenty of bird watching in your own back yard. All you have to do to attract birds is to fulfill one of their three basic needs: food, shelter or water.
It is nice to watch birds in your yard. Backyard birds are more comfortable being around people, unlike wild birds who can be a little skittish. So you can get closer to them and observe their behaviour. You may even get them to set up house and raise their young in your yard. And they love to eat weed seeds and bugs. It is a pesticide-free way to control pests in your yard!
So what kind of yard will attract birds? Not a very tidy one. Birds prefer more of a wild and natural look to their environment. If an area is too groomed and manicured, they don't have as many places to hide from predators. In my own yard, I noticed that the sparrows and juncos would run into a weedy patch of buttercups near my fence when startled. Then they would walk back over to the seed that I had spread on the ground for them.
So let your yard get a little scraggly- it`s less work for you and the birds will like it too.
While most birds prefer natural foods they find in the wild, they will gladly supplement their diet with food in backyard bird feeders.
In fact, they may come to depend on it when other food sources are scarce. So if you decide to feed the birds, make sure you are consistent. Keep your feeders full year-round. Remember, winter is an especially tough time to find nourishment. The National Bird-Feeding Society says that birds lose up to 20% of their body weight in the winter time. In 1994, the NBFS designated February as National Bird Feeding month to draw attention to this issue.
So what type of feeder should you buy? That depends on what type of bird you want to attract. Different feeders and different foods will attract different birds. If you have enough room, try different feeders and seeds to attract the widest variety of birds. Just space them at least 15 feet apart to avoid bird conflicts.
Every bird needs a home. Provide them with a home they like, and they may return to your yard year after year.
Some species of birds are dying off. There is a loss of their habitat in the wild due to farming and clear cutting of trees. You can help our feathered friends by adding a birdhouse to your outdoor decor.
A basic bird box is best for attracting birds. The fancy, brightly colored ones you see in stores may look pretty, but most birds just won`t feel secure enough to use them. Neutral colors are best. If you want to paint it, stick with brown, grey or green.
Your birdhouse should have a sloping roof to protect the entrance and so the rainwater will run off. There should be drainage holes in the bottom, too. And you should clean it out once a year, so make sure it has a removable roof or floor.
Help birds build their nests by providing them with nesting materials. Gather some material and leave it will they will find it, such as on a tree, on top of a fence, on a stump or in a suet feeder. Here are some examples:
- bits of yarn, twine or fabric strips, 6 inches or less
- dog or cat fur
- twigs, dried grass or dead leaves, as long as pesticides haven't been applied to them
- dryer lint
So now you have fed the birds and given them homes. Remember that birds get thirsty too. You will attract even more birds to your yard if you have a bird bath.
Bird baths need to be shallow. They should have slightly sloping sides so they can get in and out easily. You will want it to be 3 inches deep at its deepest point, so that larger birds can have fun, too. The surface should be rough so they have something to grip. Then they can hop around without slipping. Keep your bird bath in a shady area so it does not dry out too quickly in the hot sun.
Keep your bird bath clean. You want the birds to stay healthy. Change the water once daily. Rinse and scrub it with fresh water once per week. Do not clean it with any chemicals. Birds are very sensitive to them. You may use a drop of bleach in a full bird bath, then rinse thoroughly.
Plants to Attract Birds
Birds especially love any tree that produces nuts, berries or seeds. A few of their favorites include:
- crab apple
- flowering dogwood
- Canadian elder
And birds like flowers too. They love the seeds these flowers provide:
- black-eyed susan
- purple cone flower
Most of these flowers also attract butterflies.
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