I’m not a true “birder” but my son, who is currently working in North Dakota, is an active birder and can identify many of the species who wing their way across our country. He seeks them out, often traveling many miles to add a particular bird to his life list. He takes notes and studies books. I am still amazed by the few who grace my bird feeders! We talked yesterday about his opportunities to see some different birds while he is a resident of the north. He also gave me a link to check on some rare sightings.
Most of my bird observations are done in my own back yard, although I do venture to a couple of local bird sanctuaries. And because of Robert’s influence, I look for birds when we travel for any reason. Being more aware of them and trying to attract more to my feeders has increased my enjoyment of my garden. So, this morning I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned about making my yard more “bird friendly”.
- Feed them what they want. When I first started feeding birds I just bought whatever seed mix that was on sale. Over the past few years I’ve learned that each bird has its own preferences, just as we do. Now I feed a mix that I blend: two kinds of sunflower seeds, peanuts, cherries, raisins, millet, and other grains. You know me, I’m lazy! So I buy two or three bags of different seeds, mix them, and store the blend in a large trash container in my laundry room. I also feed suet year-round, orange slices in the spring, and dried mealworms. And I hang two to three hummingbird feeders, depending on how many birds we have. I used to hang niger seed sacks for the finches, but the squirrels tear them apart.
- Feed them in different locations. I have several hanging feeders in my yard. They’re in trees, and on shepherd’s crooks. I also have a flat, open space where I throw seed. I have a large flat feeder on a pole. I have suet feeders that hang from trees and from my clothesline pole. Birds have different requirements and some are more aggressive than others. They like their own space!
- Grow what they need. Make sure you have a variety of plants in your yard that provide fruit, nuts, seeds, or berries that attract birds. I grow sunflowers and white millet for the birds. You can get lists from several online sites. Birds and Blooms magazine offers suggestions for plants that attract and feed birds. And don’t forget shelter. Birds require both open and secluded spaces in order to stay safe and make their nests.
- Provide lots of water. Birds need water for drinking and bathing. I have two bird baths and two plastic tubs in my yard. The birds share the tubs with raccoons, skunks, opossums, and a stray cat or two. One of the bird baths is quite deep and I placed a large rock in the center of it. The other one is shallow. They are on opposite sides of the yard and attract different birds.
- Give them places to nest. I know that most birds manage to nest without us! But it doesn’t hurt to help them out a little. I have two wren houses and four bluebird houses. I have hanging gourd houses that are generally used by the sparrows. This week my husband is helping me install a Martin house. I also “leave nests alone” unless they are bothering us or will damage something. There is one on a window sill on the east side of the house. There is one in the rose bush on the west side. The only one I refuse to tolerate is a swallow’s nest directly over our entry. They try it each year and each year I insist that they move to the side of the patio. Lol
- Be a little wild! Because we live in the country there are wild spaces all around us. I also leave a few wild areas in my yard. We have a compost bin. We have a small brush pile. There is an old log in one corner of the yard. I leave a few stalks of flowers each year and let them “go to seed”. You just never know what might create a food source (insects), nesting material, or shelter.
I’m looking forward to this summer when I will have more time to watch and photograph the birds. And you just never know who might show up!! Remember this guy from a few years ago?