Feeding the Birds: Attract More Birds to Your Backyard
Helping the Birds to Feel At Home In Your Backyard
There's more to feeding wild birds than just filling up a bird feeder with seed and hanging it your backyard. Sure, hanging out a bird feeder will attract a few birds. But to really bring in the feathered visitors, create an inviting habitat that caters to their natural needs. Adding a few native plants for food and shelter will attract many more and many different types of birds as well as other local wildlife into your garden.
Attracting and feeding wild birds is easy if your yard offers four essential ingredients:
- Nesting Sites
Regardless of the size of your property or your gardening skills, every yard has the potential to attract interesting wildlife visitors. Creating a backyard wildlife habitat is a rewarding experience, providing benefits to the local wilds birds and other animals while creating your own personal wilderness sanctuary. Here are a few tips for creating a backyard wildlife habitat for attracting and feeding wild birds.
Backyard Bird Feeder Tips
Calling in the Locals
To attract the most birds to your feeders, it helps to become familiar with the types of wild birds in your area. Attracting and feeding wild birds requires a basic awareness of the types of birds found in your geographic region and in your local environment.
Even within the same geographic region, a suburban plot may attract different species of wild birds than an urban yard or a large rural property, making it important to understand which types of wild birds are in your local area and will visit your backyard habitat.
Wildlife Friendly Gardens Encourage Birds, Bats and Bees to Visit
Bring in the Natives
Wild birds evolved eating the natural berries and seeds produced by trees, bushes and wildflowers. They also feed on the varieties of insects that are attracted to flowers and nectar produced by native plants.
Planting a variety of native shrubs, perennials and annuals increases the natural forage available to visiting birds and other wildlife. Flowers and blooms attract insects, both beneficial to the wildlife habitat and as prey items for bug hunters including flycatchers, martins and bluebirds.
Trees and shrubs provide cover for escaping predators as well as protection from the elements. Hanging a few birdhouses gives cavity-nesting birds a safe place to raise their young, encouraging generations of birds to take up residence in your garden.
With a little planning, any yard can become a haven for attracting and feeding wild birds.
Add A Water Source
Wild birds need fresh, clean water daily for drinking and bathing, and they are attracted from long distances away by the sound of moving and splashing water.
Rinse and re-fill birdbaths daily, both to provide fresh clean drinking water for the birds as well as eliminating places for mosquito larva to grow.
If space allows, a small garden pond offers a permanent water source and adds another important environment to for attracting frogs and other wildlife. A small circulating pump in our pond creates enough water flow to feed a small stream. Running year round, birds and other wildlife are attracted to the water source by the sounds of splashing water. The continually moving water also prevents the stream and pond from freezing over completely when the cold weather comes, giving the birds access to fresh drinking water throughout the winter months.
The Buffet is Open
Some wild birds prefer seeds, some eat berries and fruits while others hunt bugs and insects. Offering a wide variety of food sources and different types of backyard bird feeders will increase the number and types of birds attracted into your yard.
Matching the food sources to the wild birds in your area, and to the types of birds you want to attract, significantly increases your chances of attracting birds to your feeders. A hanging bird feeder filled with black oil sunflower seeds attracts perching birds including nuthatches and chickadees. Gold finches flock to bird feeders filled with thistle or nyger seeds, and woodpeckers cling to suet feeders. Cardinals and mourning doves eat sunflower and safflower seeds, but they will only visit tray style feeders.
Recent studies indicate that feeding wild birds year round does not have any negative impact on the bird's ability to forage naturally. Instead, feeding wild birds throughout the summer provides a consistent food source during times of severe weather or times when natural foods are scarce. Backyard bird feeders must be kept clean and filled with fresh bird seed to discourage the spread of disease.
How many bird feeders are hanging in your yard?
What Type of Seed Do Birds Eat?
Offering a variety of wild bird seed from a number of different types of feeders scattered around the yard at different heights will increase the number and variety of birds enticed into the yard in search of a free meal.
Here's a short list of the common birds in North America, and the type of wild birdseed that attracts them. Fill up your backyard bird feeders and ring the dinner bell!
Dealing with Unwelcome Visitors
Backyard bird feeders can attract some uninvited guests who are looking for a free meal and quite willing to share with the birds.
Squirrels are persistent to the point of being comical in their pursuit of emptying the contents of bird feeders. Baffles and squirrel-resistant feeders offer some protection against these raiders, but their tireless attacks will ultimately reward them with a few stolen seeds.
Consider putting out ground and tray feeders filled with seed and cracked corn for the squirrels, and they are more likely to leave the other feeders alone.
Other visitors can be bigger problems, and perhaps even dangerous. Raccoons, bears and even moose may visit backyard feeders in search of an easy snack. Animals are creatures of habit and if they find your backyard bird feeders, they are likely to return again and again for a free meal. In most cases, the best option for deterring these unwelcome and potentially dangerous visitors is to remove the feeders for a while. After a few unsuccessful visits, they may look elsewhere for food.
If you live in an area with a bear population, consider waiting until the weather turns colder and bears go into hibernation before putting out the birdfeeders.
Tips for Feeding Wild Birds
A Gallery of Bird FeedersClick thumbnail to view full-size
Certify Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat
The National Wildlife Federation Certification Program
For over 35 years, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has encouraged homeowners, schools, corporations and municipalities to incorporate the needs of the local wildlife into their landscape design.
So far, the NWF has recognized the efforts of nearly 140,000 individuals and organizations who plant native shrubs and plants for food, cover and places for raising their young, provide include a source of drinking water, and add nesting boxes for cavity nesting birds.
Please visit the NWF website for additional information on their official Certified Wildlife Habitat program
Don't Forget To Feed the Birds in Winter!
© 2011 Anthony Altorenna