Three Great Reasons to Attract Wild Birds to the Backyard Garden
Wild Birds in Your Garden
There are many reasons why feeding the birds and attracting wild birds to your backyard garden is important. As urban sprawl reduces birds' natural habitats, they rely more and more on humans for assistance and support. Whether it's enjoying the colorful show that wild birds provide, teaching children about wildlife, or the sheer pleasure of watching the antics of wild birds, there are many great reasons to attract wild birds to your backyard garden, whether you live in an apartment building, a suburban home, or a farm in the country.
Organic Insect Control
Although you may immediately think of bird seed when you hear terms such as feeding the birds, birds eat a wide variety of foods, including insects. A study in the United Kingdom indicated that feeding birds attracts many more birds to the backyard garden. Such birds in turn take up residence nearby and eat insects, including the 'bad' bugs that plague the backyard gardener. Establishing friendships with wild birds by providing them with food, water and shelter suited to their needs encourages colonies to take up residence nearby. In exchange for your gifts, such birds give back generously by gobbling up insects and keeping the insect population down. If you use organic gardening methods, the insects they eat won't pass on pesticides and chemicals that can damage the birds or their eggs. You'll support nature's best pest control methods.
Helps Children Learn About the Environment
It's amazing how many people grow up unaware of the vast diversity of flora and fauna right in their own backyards. The most urban environment may house pigeons and hawks, sparrows and grackles, and hundreds more species. Suburban yards offer food and shelter to colorful species such as cardinals, blue jays, robins and more. Rural woodlands and fields offer year-round habitats for many species threatened by urban encroachment and resting places for migrating species.
Yet children grow to maturity without noting the difference between the grackle's grating call and the sweet song of the robin. The hoot of the owl is just a noise on a Tootsie Pop commercial.
Attracting birds to your garden offers a simple solution. For under $10, you can start with a simple feeder hung near a window so that the smallest child in your home can view the birds. Children naturally love birds. They bring something of the wild right to our doorsteps. Their colors and antics delight young and old alike.
As children mature, identifying birds using a good guidebook such as the Peterson's Field Guide helps cultivate attention to detail among children. As you'll learn in this book, noticing the smallest details helps you identify each bird species. Such exercises develop awareness, attention to detail, deductive thinking and reasoning skills in small children. And just maybe the adults in your household need a little help, too!
Helping Endangered and Threatened Wild Bird Species
Attracting, feeding and caring for wild birds also supports threatened and endangered species. As the urban and suburban sprawl continues throughout the United States, many woodland and meadow habitats once used by migrating and nesting birds have disappeared. Birds adapt as much as they can, but providing some special nesting boxes, food and other items they need provides much-valued support for birds in danger from human activities. Hanging a bluebird house on a fence post may not seem like much, but to the lovely and threatened bluebird, it provides a safe space to raise a clutch of young. One house can help bluebirds raise 3 to 6 chicks per year; think of how many birds you will help with just one house!
Attracting Wild Birds to the Backyard Garden
So what is the best reason to attract birds to the garden? For me, it's she sheer pleasure of watching them throughout the year. I love noticing the wildlife in my garden from the smallest toad to the large vultures perusing the woods for carrion. My parents fed the birds in our tiny urban/suburban yard and my favorite memories are of my father holding out his hand with a bit of bird seed on it while chickadee plucked seeds right from his hands. My mother taught me the names of birds in our suburban neighborhood as she pushed my stroller down the block as she ran errands. I learned to distinguish cardinals from blue jars, sparrows from crows; simple birds for a child to identify and common birds in an urban and suburban environment.
Watching birds is fun. On a snowy winter morning, it's wonderful to peer out the kitchen window at the bird feeder and watch brilliant cardinals on the feeder. I love seeing migrating birds on our farm and have spied many that I never thought I would see.
As with all gardening activities, attracting birds to the garden can be as complicated or as simple as you like. This book is intended to be a beginner's guide to attracting birds. There are many advanced books on the market, but as I talk to people interested in bird watching and feeding, they feel intimidated by the language, the complicated scientific information and all the so-called 'rules' about feeding birds.
Start with a simple bird feeder and add on as your budget, time and interest allows. Fortunately, attracting birds to your garden is easy if you have patience. Give birds what they naturally need and just wait; sooner or later, they will flock to your garden.
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© 2011 Jeanne Grunert
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