Wildlife in the Backyard--The Birds
Living in harmony with our fellow feathered friends can be simple and easy. With a little bit of forethought and planning you can create a backyard oasis for you, your family, and the birds. There are tips and tricks you can use to keep away the birds you do not want in your backyard and bring the ones into your yard that you love. The way you layout your yard can help keep the birds away from things like your fruit and vegetable gardens. Allowing you to enjoy the birds without the hassle of trying to keep them away from your livelihood.
Birds of all colors, shapes, and sizes can be found in your backyard year round. Knowing what kinds of feed they like, what types of feeders they will eat from, and where to place these feeders will help you provide the best food supply for the birds in your backyard.
Testing Tray Feeders: These are great beginner feeders as they allow you to put multiple forms of seeds or seed mixes into one feeder. These feeders will help you figure out what kinds of seeds the birds like. It is also helpful in that bird's diets change with the seasons, so remember to check on the feeders year round to see how the feeding habits change.
Suet Feeders: For the birds that prefer suet feed you can purchase a variety of suet feeders. One that hangs upside down is perfect to keep away those birds that are incapable of hanging upside down and eating like the Starling. However woodpeckers and other suet eaters have the capability to hang upside down.
Sugar Water Feeders: These feeders are great for attracting Hummingbirds and Orioles. Special feeders are made to attract each of these types of birds. The problem however with these feeders is that they are not a source of food for the birds, but rather a sweet treat that provides bursts of energy.
Along with the Hummingbird and Oriole there are 68 other bird species that can be observed eating from these feeders however these feeders are not meant to accommodate these other breeds of birds.
The most common options for feed are mixed seed bags. These bags are available commercially in many varieties depending on the type of bird you are trying to attract. However if you would like you can create your own with this simple recipe: Sunflower seeds, Millet (white proso), and cracked corn.
The main problems with any of these mixes is that the corn is very popular among squirrels and other rodents. To keep the squirrels from taking all the feed you can buy squirrel feeders and put the a good distance away from the bird feeders or you can make a quick and easy fix by drilling corn cobs into the trunks of trees. Using hulled sunflower seeds will help prevent the dreaded outcome of many sunflower plants trying to grow under your feeders. It will also prevent squirrels and jays stealing them and burying them.
Baked Goods & Fruits: These sweet treats can be used to bring additional birds to your feeders. They also provide a great way to bring birds to new feeders. However these treats have a high spoilage rate and should be removed if not eaten in a few days to prevent spoilage, molding, and flies. For best results keep these food items in protected feeders as house sparrows, starlings, other animals, and rodents will spot them quickly.
Suet Mixes: You can provide homemade suet mixes for insect eating birds using different recipes with peanut butter and cornbread. Otherwise you can buy suet mixes available commercially or from some butchers. Store bought suet mixes fit into commercial suet feeders however birds prefer the softer homemade suet mixes compared to the highly refined and hard commercial mixes.
Attracting Your Favorite Birds
Knowing the nesting sites, behaviors, and feeding preferences will help you create the perfect backyard oasis for the birds in your yard. Whether you have a landscape of mostly trees, mostly shrubs and lawn, or if you have a small outdoor space you have options for many species of birds. Adding a water source either through a birdbath, pond, or even if you have a back stream on your property will greatly increase the amount of bird varieties you will see. You can also build a small bird garden that will bring in birds attracted to flowers.
Popular Birds of Wisconsin:
Ruby-throated hummingbird--prefers trees and will sometimes stay to nest. Visits yards with lots of flowers, but they prefer pink or red flowers. Attract by offering sugar water in feeders.
Red-headed woodpecker-- prefers birdhouses and dead trees and frequents yards with trees. Gathers acorns and will accept food from platform feeders if nutmeats, sunflower seeds and cracked corn are available.
Purple Martin--An open landscape with trees at a distance are essential for martins. The only food they accept is crushed eggshell on the ground below an occupied martin house. Martin houses have to meet specific requirements in order to be acceptable for them. Martin houses should be expandable to grow with the colony from year to year. A starting Martin house should start small with 8 to 12 compartments. Try positioning the house within 100 feet from your dwelling. They have learned to associate us with protection and prefer nesting close to our homes.
Rose-breasted grosbeak--Preferring to nest in trees and shrubs you can increase the chance of having this colorful appealing bird at your feeders by provide food year round. Food and water will induce it to stay.