Picture a green, pristine yard with a scattering of trees and flowering plants or shrubs growing neatly in the corners. There are the odd backyard furniture, chairs, a grill pit, a table etc scattered about. Sounds picturesque? But something is missing. Along with flowers and bees, the essence of a yard is nature's little feathered friends or birds. Attracting wild birds to your backyard isn't just to satisfy the bird-lover in you but rather is a way to keep your yard green and growing. With the ever expanding grasp of progress, man has encroached and claimed much of birds natural habitat, so it seems fair to at least let them live alongside us. That being said, putting out a bucket of bird seed is not going to bring birds to your yard. There are ways and steps on how to attract birds to your yard.
Ways to Attract Birds to Your Yard
1. Be the Best Place to Eat in Town
Making your backyard, a mini birdy food court is a sure way to attract birds. You can hang up a ball or cake of food scraps or fix a bird feeder for the birds to eat from. There is no specification that birds should be fed only during winter or summer but rather you should be consistent in your feeding regime all year around. It is not fair to supply food one month and not the next, as the birds will be dependent on your food.
Food balls or cakes are to be hanged up or nailed to a tree or wall. You can buy them from a store or make your own. Different species are attracted to different foods, so try to include as much variety as possible. Peanut and sunflower are good choices.
From your kitchen, edible-by-birds scraps include apple cores, raisins and currants, bananas and soaked bread. Even hanging up an apple core or a few berries on a string will attract birds. You could nail a shelf or a plank of wood, like a perch to a wall and spread food on it.
Bird feeders are the most convenient method for you to feed the birds and for the birds to eat from. Feeders are designed based on the type of bird and food used. Seed tube feeders are the most common, they are used to hold seed mixes for birds like finches. Ground feeders are for birds like doves and sparrows, they are in a screened tray form. For omnivorous birds, suet cages that hold suet cakes, should be used. Suet feeders should be used only in the winter.
The plants and trees growing in your garden also provide birds with plenty of food. Shrubs such as dogwood, berry bushes (chokeberries, currants, mulberries) and flowers for nectar, even fruit bearing trees such as oaks, hollies and pines, all such flora supply ideal bird food.
Cats are always on the prowl for eating, unsuspecting birds. So place your food sources at a bird-reachable height off the ground, near a shrubbery or with cover around and you could plant prickly plants or thorny bushes around the feeder.
Do not place feeders near nest boxes, as birds can get territorial. Also do not place feeders near the windows or entrances to a house, as birds can crash into them, while rushing to feed. Clean the feeders and cakes from time to time. Check for fungal or bacterial growth, as your bird guests will be affected by such micro organism. Clean out seed husks and shells or feathers. For a thorough cleaning, sterilize the feeder with boiling water, let it dry and then refill it with food.
2. Make Your Backyard An Oasis
A clean, sufficient source of water is a way to attract feathered friends. For drinking purposes, provide a water holder. For bathing, preening and cleaning themselves, the best way to hold water in a bird-friendly manner is through a bird bath. Even on a hot summer's day, a cool source of water will attract birds around, for quenching their thirst or taking a relaxing dip to cool off. You have separate containers for bathing and drinking, though mostly birds are really not that fussy and will bath and sip out of birdbath or water holder alike!
Do not use very deep birdbaths, as while stretching to reach the water, a bird could lose its balance, fall in and drown. Use a container with a depth measurement between 2.5 cm - 10 cm.
Your feathered visitors are attracted by 3 main points with water - light, movement and noise. The sound of running or flowing water can be simulated with a dripper or pump that circulates it. Sunlight reflecting of a container acts as a beacon to attract birds from far and wide. Then there is running or moving water, like faucets, taps, small streams and everyone's favorite: sprinklers.
Waste, feathers, dirt etc would you like to drink water or bathe from a tub full of such stuff? No, so keep the same rule in mind for birds and be regular with refilling and cleaning out the tub. Clean out the water container or bird bath daily with a hose, to blast out any debris. If there is mold or algae, clean the container by washing it with some soap and rinse well. Insecticides, fertilizers and chemicals in the water can poison its drinkers, so make sure your water is chemical-free.
For ornamental and landscaping purposes, a ceramic or marble high/pedestal birdbath will suit your garden's décor and attract the birds. Or simply use a plastic ready-made birdbath or plant container. You could even use the lid of a dustbin or storage bin. Keep it upside down, embed it deep in the soil and pour water in it. A rough surface gives a better grip for bird claws. Placing stones in the middle of a deep container can give the birds, little perches and stops to bathe from.
Place birdbaths or water sources in convenient locations, not too dark or dingy but not too bright or hot either. A little shade is necessary. Birds are highly vulnerable while bathing. Wet feathers do not allow them to fly, so keep birdbaths near shrubbery or bushes to allow for escape. Also placing baths at a slight height or placing prickly and thorny branches around its base or near it, can repel cats.
3. Let Your Yard Be a Safe Home
Providing all these treats attracts a lot of unwanted attention from potential predators. Also to make your backyard a nesting haven, you could fix nest boxes for attracting the nesting crowd at spring time. A clean and secure area will encourage many small bird species to nest. Birds will not come to netted plantless stretches of lawn or lawns with a lot of chairs, tables and concrete.
Trees are useful for larger bird species and to provide shade and cover during the warmer months. Holes and niches in tree bark are also ideal nest building locations. Shrubbery and bush coverage is useful for defensive hiding and escape hatches. Flowers, herbs and small plants serve as nectar sources and also provide insects and worms for birds to feed on. Vines and creepers are also bird favorites.
Hopefully the above tips will fill your garden with little and large feathered friends for all seasons to come.