The Joys of Backyard Birdwatching: How to Attract Birds to Your Yard
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My husband had purchased a bird feeder a few years back and used it intermittently at his house in the city. However, he had such a time dealing with the squirrels eating the seed instead of the birds (the squirrels are greedy little buggers) it just wasn't fun for him to support their lifestyle. After we moved to the home we purchased in the country, we decided to resurrect the bird feeder for the few birds on our property. So, we did. We visited Wal-Mart and bought the economy birdseed. After almost five days, the birds began to find the feeder. Still, we noticed there wasn't much activity from the birds. Apparently, they just weren't impressed by our menu offerings.
A trip to our neighbor's yard changed everything. Finally, I figured out why our yard was nearly deserted by our feathered friends . . . they had all gone to HER yard! As she gave me the tour of her garden, I learned why they preferred her establishment to ours. Instead of the "BB" bird seed (the cheap stuff), I noticed that she buys the mix with lots of sunflower seeds and fruit, and she provides several "feeding stations" with multiple feeders at each - including hummingbird feeders - each with different kinds of food. The birds were NOT shy about visiting at her feeding stations, even when we were standing within five feet of them. The variety of birds I saw that day in her backyard garden was simply amazing!
I determined that we would just follow our neighbor's business model and set up our yard to attract the largest variety of birds possible. So, I did the most logical thing. I drove over to our closest Wild Birds Unlimited and tapped the fountain of knowledge I found there until he - patient man - was nearly dry. Thank you, Tony. Tony Nicosia is the owner of our Clayton Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU). I'm sure he had to go get a tall drink of water after my visit. I can't say enough about the knowledge of the staff at WBU and quality of their products. During our conversation, I found out there are several things you MUST do if you want to attract our feathered friends to your yard.
Invite the Birds
Birds, like humans, love generous hospitality. Give your birds options to feed, drink, bathe, find shelter, and build their nests, all in your back yard or any other place in your landscape. First, place feeders, water sources, and nest boxes with their needs in mind. For a longer-term approach, landscape with your backyard visitors in mind so that the natural habitat you develop will help support your backyard population with fruit, berries,insects, and, of course, natural cover. Find out which plants, shrubs, vines, and trees attract, feed, and house birds and other wildlife, and then design them into your landscape over time. If birds find what they need in your yard, they will come and stay. Some will even stay through the winter, depending on your climate and whether a particular bird is migratory.
Buy (or grow) a good quality food - lots of it. Provide seed that attracts a wide variety of birds and offer it to them on a feeding pole that includes a number of feeding stations. A larger variety of seeds, fruits, nuts, etc. in your bird feeder or feeding station and a few different types of feeders will attract a greater variety of birds to your yard. You can also put out suet or peanut butter, which the birds particularly appreciate in the winter, as both offer a greater fat and calorie content to help the birds produce sufficient body heat in colder temperatures. Be careful to monitor feeders so that you don't run out of food; when the restaurant closes, the birds find one that's open elsewhere.
Provide shelter. Birds need shelter from the elements, snug sleeping quarters, and nesting that is secure from predators. Landscape plants, bushes, and trees - particularly those that produce berries, nuts, or seeds - provide shelter, as well as food, for a wide variety of birds. If you put up nesting boxes, they should be made and placed carefully within the landscape, keeping the birds' need for security from predators in mind.
Provide a source of fresh water in your yard. Try to locate your water source fairly close to where the birds feed. Water is usually provided in a birdbath or saucer. This source of water will be used for drinking and bathing, so it should be changed often. Important: make certain that the birdbath or saucer is very shallow, two to three inches. If it is not, the birds will NOT use it; I found this out after waiting for MONTHS for my birds to find the fancy "cement pond" birdbath the previous owners had gone to so much trouble to create. They wouldn't use it because it is too deep; in this rare instance, being shallow is actually a good thing.
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