More Birds In Your Yard

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New Hope’s Guide to a bird-friendly backyard

Many people feed or just watch birds out their kitchen window; that’s a treat but one might eventually get bored with watching the same conglomeration of birds from day to day. After all, having a mob of a few dozen Eurasian Collared Doves, a throng of jays, and a coterie of House Sparrows visiting one’s feeder isn’t exactly a birdwatcher’s concept of nirvana. So, cheaply and easily, how can we get a greater variety of bird visitors to our yard? A few ways.

First, add some birdhouses. Titmice, chickadees, wrens, nuthatches, Tree Swallows, some flycatchers and bluebirds all find basic ones attractive. You can slap together one easily with scrap wood even if you aren’t very handy. Second, add a birdbath, and if you can incorporate a running or dripping water feature, all the better. In these days of warming climate, a water source is increasingly important. And of course bird feeders, with as diverse a food supply as possible. Small seeds, large seeds, a variety of seed kinds, fruit, suet, mealworms and so forth will attract species with divergent tastes. And a diversity of feeders – hanging, platform, ground mounted, etc. is helpful as well. If you are on a tight budget, chick feed – for baby chickens – will do just fine for the general bird population. There’s no reason to buy fancy or special food unless you want to attract a particular bird species. Of course, the more kinds of food and the more bird feeders, the greater number and species of birds will visit.

But the most important factor by far is the landscaping. A proliferation of green lawn does little to attract birds, although an occasional robin or jay or crow might stop by. Replace some of the lawn with a variety of plants. Flowering plants, shrubs, and trees are essential for attracting birds because they provide both food and shelter. But there are two essential aspects of this landscaping we need to consider.

First, birds don’t care a lot about what kind of shrub or tree you plant. They can nest in all kinds of trees and shrubs as they all provide shelter and some will bear fruit. But trees and shrubs have different configurations – some are sparse, some compact, some tall, some short, and so on. The greater the variety of structures (not species) you have the greater number of bird species. So a real jungle of a yard, maybe defined as “messy,” is what you want.

But let’s back up a little. Yes, the birds only care about plant structure, not species, but native plants attract native insects that evolved along with them and 95% of songbirds eat insects to get the protein needed to raise young. So to provide the natural insect food and fruit, to the birds, it is far better to plant native vegetation. For an in-depth look at this concept, go to Audubon.

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