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Feathered Friends

Romancing the birds into your backyard

By Mimi Greenwood Knight

Few things are as relaxing as birdwatching in your own backyard. All you need to put out the welcome mat for your local bird population is food, water, and shelter. But these ideas can help make your yard an irresistible birdscape.

Design a Feeding Station

Rather than just a feeder or two, consider creating a station with a variety of feeders at different heights with a variety of birdseed on the menu. While blue jays, cardinals, and juncos are ground feeders, they can be easily enticed to a hopper feeder — the kind that looks like a small house with a roof)=. Nuthatches and finches prefer cylindrical feeders. Be sure to situate your station close enough to the house for year-round viewing. The more feeders you have, the more birds you can attract. The more types of feed and feeders you have, the more types of birds.

Vary the Menu

Different birds prefer different feeds. Invest in good quality feed that meets their nutritional needs. Black-oil sunflower seed will usually attract songbirds such as blue jays, cardinals, grosbeaks, and chickadees. Nuthatches and finches prefer smaller seeds such as Nyjer or millet, and woodpeckers, chickadees, and wrens go gaga over suet cakes. You can also include treats such as peanuts, nuts, and nectar.

Location, Location, Location

Varying the location of your feeders is important, too. Some birds want a clear shot to the perch so they can swoop in from across the yard, but others prefer feeders that aren’t so exposed. Warier birds like cardinals prefer a little natural cover around their feeders. A feeder or two near shrubs or bushes will offer them the security they want. All feeders should be well off the ground to protect from neighborhood cats and other predators, and all should provide birds with a place to perch and rest. And since some birds can become territorial, station feeders three or four feet apart, so everybody gets a shot.

Incorporate a Bird Bath

Birds love a good water source in their feeding area. While a basic birdbath is fine, you might attract even more birds with a solar fountain, mister, or dripper, which entice birds with the sound of moving water. Or go all out with a waterfall or pond. Offering different water environments with static, moving, and misting water can appeal to a variety of species.

Color Me Happy

Birds are one of the few animals that see in color. In fact, they rely on colors to attract mates and hide from predators, and most birds love bright hues. Incorporate reds into your landscape to attract hummingbirds, yellow and orange for orioles and goldfinches. Since most birds are attracted to their own color, blues can attract blue jays and other bluebirds. Introduce color through birdfeeders and birdhouses and include lots of naturally vibrant shrubs and flowers in your landscaping.

Keep your feeders clean and filled, and get ready for the daily procession of feathered friends. Happy birdwatching, y’all!

Squirrels Need Not Apply

Let’s talk about the rodent in the room — squirrels. Everything you do to attract birds is going to serve as a neon sign for these little birdseed thieves who can do all sorts of damage in your yard. Many commercially available birdfeeders come with squirrel-proof features. You can also install baffles on your feeder pole or simply grease the pole to prevent squirrels from climbing to your feeders. An added bonus is the daily Cirque du Soleil performance they’ll put on trying to circumvent your deterrents. You also need to place feeders away from anything — and I do mean anything — squirrels can use to access them.

Keep it Clean

Feeders should be regularly checked and washed with mild dish soap, diluted bleach, and warm water, then air-dried. Doing so will not only deter the spread of disease but give you a chance to discard stale or moldy seed, so the birds are getting good, fresh food. Spend a little time cleaning up spilled seeds or hulls underneath feeders so birds aren’t temped to ground feed where they’re in danger from predators.


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