If you couldn't tell, birds are my favorite thing to talk about! But they may not be the most interesting creatures to everyone, especially when they can only be seen from so far way you may think, "Is that a bird? Oh, no. It's a rock. Or is it?". There are many safe, environmentally friendly ways you can attract birds right to your own yard for closer observation. Here are a few things birds will be looking for when they are scoping out possible favorite dinning spots:
Is it safe?
Birds will be on the look out for anything that might pose a threat to them. They may be less likely to frequent a yard that has roaming cats, yappy dogs, or a lot of other activity. Some areas may pose a danger to them without their knowledge. Some pesticides or herbicides can harm more than the intended pest.
Windows can also pose a threat to unsuspecting birds. Placing bird feeders far enough away from (or close enough to) your house can help feeding birds avoid striking your windows. There are also numerous techniques for marking or blocking your windows so they don't pose as much of a threat to flying birds.
This article gives some tips on helping birds avoid window collisions.
Is your cat an outdoor adventurer who wouldn't appreciate being brought in? Some folks have had luck with these to give birds a bit of an advantage. However, the safest place a cat to be (for them and the birds) is in their homes.
Is there food?
Birds will not only be on the look out for an easy meal from a feeder, but for flowers and trees that may provide them with tasty nectar, seeds, or bugs. Their idea of an ideal meal spot will have a variety of food sources available to them.
Bird feeders should be maintained and cleaned regularly to reduce risk of spreading diseases. For a variety of birds, try a variety of feeders and bird food!
Is there water?
Although it's not a requirement (birds can find water elsewhere), water can do wonders for attracting birds! Water sources can be bird baths, bubbling fountains, or small streams. Just be sure to clean and care for whatever source you provide, as dirty and contaminated water sources can do more harm than good for little creatures.
Don't have a fancy bird bath? Here are some ideas for DIY bird baths. Keep in mind, you'll only want to fill your bird bath with 1-2" of water, so shallow dishes are best. Scattering small rocks along the bottom can give birds places to perch and drink. You'll also want to make sure whatever you use is not coated or sealed in anything that may be toxic.
Is there shelter?
Shelter is related to safety, but can be a little different. An area can be safe without having much for shelter, and a sheltered area isn't necessarily safe. The best shelter is in the form of natural trees and shrubs, but birds will use man-made structures to escape the heat. If it was particularly hot, cold, or windy, think about whether or not there is an area in your hard birds may use to escape the elements.
Thick trees and shrubs don't only protect birds from the sun or rain, they also provide birds a safe place to hide away if they see a predator. Bird feeders that are hung low to the ground in an open area can lead to your birds to becoming an easy target for cats or hawks. The more shelter, the better!
DIY Pine Cone Feeder
If your yard is like mine and you don't (yet!) have a lot in the way of trees and plants, you can attract birds with feeders. Reusable feeders should be cleaned and maintained to reduce the risk of spreading disease and bacteria. Although there are LOADS of beautiful, creative, bird feeding devises out there, there are several DIY designs you can make with materials you already have. One of my favorites is this "pine cone feeder":
Peanut butter, sun butter, or honey
* You can also use a toilet paper roll, or even a stick. Just be sure you return to collect anything that must be thrown away. I prefer to use pine cones and prop them in the branches instead of using string, just in case I forget to go back out and collect the trash I've left in the tree. No waste!
1. Cover your pine cone with peanut butter (use sun butter or honey for a nut-free alternative).
2. Roll the pine cone in a plate or bowl of bird seed.
3. Tie string to your pine cone (remember to come back for it when the seeds are gone).
4. Hang and enjoy!
It may take several days, or even weeks, for your feeders to be discovered, but once they are the seeds will go quickly! These pine cones can be left in the tree (minus their strings), or refilled.
Do you have tips for attracting birds to your yard? I'd love to hear them!