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Attracting Birds to Your Yard

Food water and shelter are the keys to attracting birds to your yard.  Aside from the obvious things like providing food and water there are many things you can do to attract birds.  As the saying goes (if you build it they will come).  The right landscaping will attract a large variety of birds.   Many birds are attracted to edge environments where trees and shrubs surround an open area.   Choose trees with various sizes and shapes.  The idea here is to offer a sanctuary with food, water, and shelter.  A big reason birds are attracted to edge areas is that there are more birds that nest on the ground and in shrubs than there are that use cavities.  The bushes and shrubs also provide shelter for them to hide in as well as food such as insects or berries.  A yard that has natural foods is better for birds and will attract more of them then if your feeders are the only source. 

You can easily create this kind of environment in your yard.  Plant a variety of trees and shrubs around the edges of your yard.  If you plant shrubs that produce berries, you give birds one more reason to come to your yard.  Birds prefer an yard that is not manicured, so holding back on the trimming will increase the number of birds visiting your yard.  Even a partially decayed tree stump left on your property can be inviting to cavity nesters.  By boring a 1 1/8 inch hole in a sheltered side you might temp chickadees to finish the excavation and build a nest there.  If they do they will probably be back next year.  Many people place a brush pile near their feeders to provide cover for small birds.  Birds will use brush piles to hide from predators, and for protection from harsh weather all year long.

Deciduous plants, whose leaves drop off in winter offer areas for nesting in spring, and summer as well as a variety of foods to help them get through the winter.   A good place to put bird feeders is near your water.   

Nesting Areas

Most people want to attract song birds to their yards.  One way to do this is to provide places for them to nest.  Putting up bird houses lets you not only have the joy of watching the birds but you become part of the solution to a growing problem.  Today as never before natural habitats for bird nesting is being destroyed.  More and more bird species are threatened by extinction every day.  It is estimated that the number could be as high as 10 % in the U.S.  The many people that are becoming interested in bird watching are critical to the survival of some species. 

The most common type of nesting people provide is birdhouses.  This is good for cavities nesters, however many birds nest in shrubs or trees, and on or in the ground.  Of these ground nesting is the most common followed by shrubs, and trees.  A grassy area of your yard that is left in a natural state may entice birds such as juncos to nest there.  Since birds tend to return to an area they previously nested in it may take a while before they start using a newly landscaped yard.  Once they do nest there they will probably keep coming back.  Birds that use bird houses are more likely to move into a new house right away, because it is often difficult to find a suitable cavity.  In addition to landscaping, some people provide nesting materials.  A suet holder can be stuffed with things like string, feathers, and small pieces of cloth.  Place it somewhere the birds can see it such as on a pole, and chances are you will see birds taking building material from it.  In a dry season, birds that use mud in their nests such as robins, phoebes, or swallows may use a pan of mud placed in a protected, accessible place.  Providing areas for birds to nest on your property becomes more helpful to birds as time goes on.  With increases in population in cities and the countryside many valuable nesting-sites are disappearing. 

There is even an advantage to farmers when birds nest on their property.  Here I will make a brief mention of the economic value of birds.  They are voracious eaters of insects.  Where there are efforts to increase bird populations in farm lands, and orchards, the loss of crops to injurious insects has been great.  One pair of chickadees in an orchard will eat thousands of harmful insect eggs.  Even birds that feed mainly on seeds usually feed their young insects.  For the first days of their existence they may eat more than their weight in food a day.  Parents will start the feeding at sun up and not stop all day.  Young birds will gain 20 to 50 percent of their weight during this period.

One shining example of how successful providing nesting sites can be is bluebirds.  Bluebird populations across the U.S. were declining rapidly.  Because of a nationwide effort to put up birdhouses, and start bluebird trails many areas that were losing these precious little birds are seeing a comeback.

Platform Nesting

Many birds such as robins, phoebes, or Barn swallows nest on platforms or shelves on buildings.  A platform can easily be built, and attached to a building.  It is best if it is under an eve or something to help protect it from the weather.

 Here is information building and placing  bird houses.

For more on food and feeding click here.
For more on feeders click here.
To learn about favorite birds click here.

 
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