Birds are great fun to watch. You could think of them as wild pets. In addition to entertainment, remember that birds also help control insect populations, pollinate flowers and disperse seeds. Birds are important to a healthy environment.
First, take a look at your lawn and garden from a bird's eye view. Ask yourself:
- Are there places for shelter and nesting? Birds need protection from inclement weather and predators. Trees, vines, shrubs and hedges are inviting environments for nesting birds.
- Is there food and water? A combination of natural food sources and bird feeders will attract a variety of birds all year long. A year-round supply of clean water is also essential.
Shelter is vital to a bird's survival. Essential for nesting and resting, an inviting habitat will attract birds. The best shelter is the living kind - shrubs and trees. A mixture of evergreen and deciduous plants provides year-round warmth and protection. Dead trees and limbs can also provide a home for nesting birds. If a dead tree doesn't endanger lives or property, leave it in place for the birds. Plant ivy or a blooming vine at the base to "disguise" it.
Shelter is especially important during the nesting season. During the spring nesting season (about 6 weeks) provide an environment free from man or other animals. To add or supplement natural habitat, birdhouses are a good choice.
Put your birdhouses up in the fall so they can weather over winter and be ready for birds in the spring. If you wait until spring to put up a birdhouse, you should have it ready by no later than mid-March. Place your birdhouse as close to natural nesting conditions as you can.
Most birds that nest in a house will do so anywhere in your yard or garden, but experts recommend these cautions:
- Put all houses on metal posts, not in trees or on wood posts. This will keep cats, raccoons and other predators away.
- Keep the birdhouse away from noisy areas.
Here are some common shrubs and trees that attract birds:
Bird feeders are an important supplemental source of food for birds, too. The type of feeder you choose will determine the birds that come to eat there.
Many bird watchers start with a solidly-built tube feeder. The clear plastic tube lets you know when food is running low and also helps the birds to find your food. Most tube feeders have individual perches, and they will attract smaller songbirds, but not larger birds.
Many people feed birds only during the winter months when the birds need it most, but feeding them year-round offers advantages. Feeding in the warm months can induce some birds to nest nearby, and many birds take on their most colorful plumage during the breeding season. Regardless of whether you feed only during the winter or year- round, be consistent with your feeding regimen. It is only fair to those birds who have come to rely on your feeders as a source of food.
Summer feeding requirements are slightly different from those of winter. Suet, for example, is a common winter feed. It is an attractive food for many birds, especially when offered with seeds, but it can quickly melt or go bad in the summer. Shelled nutmeats like sunflower seeds can also spoil, and should be used sparingly. Any bird feed should be protected from moisture at all times since the presence of moisture can contribute to spoilage.
Here are common foods and the birds they may attract:
- Sunflower seed — Chickadee, tufted titmouse, evening grosbeak, white-breasted nuthatch, blue jay, cardinal, purple finch, American goldfinch
- Thistle — Dark-eyed junco, American goldfinch, purple finch, house finch, pine suskin, house sparrow
- Cracked corn — Mourning dove, blue jay, house sparrow, tree sparrow, song sparrow, white-throated sparrow, brown-headed cowbird, red-winged blackbird
- Millet — Mourning dove, house sparrow, tree sparrow, song sparrow, white-throated sparrow, brown-headed cowbird, red-winged blackbird
- Suet — Downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, starling, chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, red-breasted nuthatch
Commercial mixtures of bird food are readily available. They are formulated to attract certain categories of birds. If you wish, you may also mix your own food based on the types of birds you are trying to attract.
Many bird lovers faithfully provide food but overlook another key to survival - water. Some moisture is available naturally from dew, rainfall and wild food, but in most areas they need other sources as well. Throughout the year, it's important to supply water for drinking and bathing.
In addition to hydration, birds also need water for bathing. A bath helps a bird keep its feathers in perfect condition for flying. It also helps the feathers maintain their waterproofing and insulating properties.
Since wet feathers hinder a bird's ability to fly, it is important that a birdbath be placed near protective shrubbery so the bird can make a quick getaway if necessary.
A pedestal birdbath with a wide, shallow bowl is a good choice. Make sure the surface is rough so the birds will not slip as they drink and bathe. Use rock or stones to create various depths in your birdbath so you can attract a wide variety of birds. Most birds are terrified of really deep water, but you will find that song sparrows, goldfinches and chickadees will use the shallow section of our birdbath and the deeper end will be enjoyed by robins and jays.
A rim or perch near the water should be provided to allow the birds to alight before entering the water. If you have a water garden or small pond which is too deep for birds to use, place some stones in the water in such a way that they just break the surface, providing the birds with access to the water and a shallow area in which to bathe.
Innovative homeowners can also create birdbaths from supplies or materials found around the house like barrels, large stones with depressions or plastic lined depressions in the ground. With creative thinking, these baths can be incorporated inconspicuously into the environment. Remember, however, that the water source you provide must be free of lead and/or chemicals of any kind. The bath itself should be cleaned periodically with a scrub brush and fresh water, and refilled.
With preparation, birdbaths can be maintained all year, providing birds with a reliable source of water even during freezing weather. An all-season birdbath requires a means to prevent the water from freezing. Outdoor heaters designed specifically for this purpose are available and should be used with a heavy duty, grounded extension cord appropriate for the purpose.
Perhaps most important; put your birdbath in a sunny place. This will help keep ice away in winter months, and the warm sun will feel good to the wet birds any day of the year.
Important Note: Insecticides, fertilizers and other commonly-used chemicals can be deadly to birds. Please be conscious of how you use these products near bird feeding, watering or nesting areas.
Has anyone here made a homemade feeder?
Yes, I made a few! One is still in my backyard, while the others are different other places. Nothing elaborate though!
I also made bird-houses.
How about you?
If the cats can not be contained, try putting the feeders as high up as you can, and away from anything that the cats can use to jump at the feeders.
Also, I saw this on TV and I thought it was interesting:
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