Build A Backyard Bird Paradise
Backyard birding has become as popular as a freshly filled feeder on a sunny day, and it’s easy to see why. Observing birds allows you to enjoy the wonders of nature from the comfort of home. Birds splashing in baths, preening on branches, calling to one another, or vying for a spot on a feeder — they’re all free performances flown in at no cost to us. While your yard may naturally attract feathered friends, with a few thoughtful additions, you can easily increase their variety and numbers.
Most backyard bird havens include a feeder or two. Choose one or more from the following list, depending on the type of birds you’d like to attract.
- Tube feeders are usually clear and provide various places to perch along vertical walls, which is especially helpful for smaller birds who sometimes get pushed out of the way at other types of feeders.
- Hopper and platform feeders are made with transparent plastic or glass on two sides. Hopper feeders clearly show when it’s time for a refill. Like a mini house, they feature a roof and floor. Seeds slip out of the openings at the bottom onto a tray where birds perch and peck. Platform feeders are similar, but without the protective sides so they don’t keep seeds as dry.
- Suet feeders entice nuthatches, chickadees and woodpeckers, who enjoy nibbling on the mixture of fat and seed that makes up suet. Constructed of metal or plastic-coated metal, these feeders can be hung from a tree or pole and filled with suet blocks.
The Audubon society recommends only putting out suet in cooler weather because it can turn rancid in the summer and melting fat can damage the natural waterproofing on feathers.
- Hummingbird feeders are the only feeders on the list that offer a liquid diet. You can purchase nectar for them or make your own out of white sugar and water.
- Sock feeders are generally hung from trees or poles to serve up tiny thistle or Nyjer seeds. Gold finches give these types of feeders five stars.
Keep It Clean! All feeders should be thoroughly cleaned at least twice a year, and more often during hot, humid weather. Moldy seeds can transmit diseases and harm birds. Dropped seeds should be swept up regularly so they don’t get moldy. The Audubon Society recommends cleaning hummingbird feeders every few days.
Reduce Window Collisions: Place feeders closer than three feet from your windows and glass doors. This prevents startled or frightened birds from accidentally careening into them. You can also place feeders more than 30 feet away to reduce collisions or purchase anti-collision decals or stickers for your glass.
Once you’ve chosen a feeder or two, it’s time to fill them up!
- If you land on a tube, hopper or platform feeder, you have several choices when it comes to bird seed. Black-oil sunflower is the most popular and attracts a wide variety of birds, including blue jays, chickadees, finches, nuthatches and sparrows. Seed mixes attract many different species, but they can be messy since birds pick through them to find their favorites.
- If you migrate toward a suet feeder, standard-size suet blocks are the way to go.
- If you’re hovering over a hummingbird feeder, you can buy specialized nectar or mix your own with white sugar and water.
- And finally, if your flight path leads to sock feeders, fill them up with thistle or Nyjer.
Bird baths might not seem as important as feeders, however all birds require fresh water. There are four main options when it comes to choosing bird baths:
- Classic bowl on a pedestal
- Hanging bird bath
- Bird baths that attach to railings
- Ground-level bath
Hanging bird baths are usually smaller, which makes them easier to bring in and clean. The same goes with a bath that attaches to your deck railing. These two types of baths may work best for small spaces or balconies. Although not as common, ground baths mimic the puddles that birds use in nature. They may not keep birds as safe from predators as an elevated bath, though.
Whichever type of bath you choose, you’ll want to ensure varying water depths. Ideally, a bird bath is deeper in the middle and gradually becomes shallower near the edges to accommodate birds of different sizes. You can also vary the depths by adding stones.
Birds, like people, are picky about their real estate, so definitely do your research when choosing an optimal abode. Details like the size of the “front door” entry hole, the dimensions of the box, and how high the house hangs are crucial in determining whether birds will move in and what species you’ll attract. Even color can make a difference. Many common birds prefer earth tones, for example, though purple martins opt for white.
Only birds who naturally nest in tree cavities will move into bird houses. According to the National Wildlife Federation, of the 85 bird species in North America that nest in tree cavities, about three dozen will also nest in bird houses. Common species that do include bluebirds, chickadees, house wrens, purple martins and titmice. You may even be able to attract wood ducks and screech owls with the right type of architecture.
Ample food, water and shelter — that’s all it takes to create your very own bird paradise. Remember to keep your bird baths, houses and feeders clean and well away from natural predators. Safety first! With a little luck, you’ll soon feel the excitement of spotting a new species in your yard or realizing that your bountiful feeder has become the new neighborhood hot spot.
Note for Washington State residents: Wildlife experts recommend removing bird feeders and baths from your yard until at least April 2021 to prevent the spread of a deadly salmonella outbreak that is killing songbirds.