How to attract wild birds to your backyard
Added August 9, 2014
I live out in the country in beautiful Southern Wisconsin. When I have friends or family over, we usually don’t spend much time inside the house, we are often out on the deck or walking around the yard. It doesn’t take long, and we are identifying birds and answering questions about why a certain food helps attract a certain bird. You can attract different birds with different feeds, but the first step is simply getting birds to enjoy your backyard. So, this article is written very generally, “How to attract wild birds to your backyard”.
To start birding, take an inventory of your backyard. What is there? What do you want to keep? Are there areas in your yard where you’d like to attract birds and do something different? When we built our house, I put a giant bird feeder on the deck, because I liked to watch the birds from the window. It didn’t take long and my wife had me out on the deck with a scrub brush, cleaning off the “gifts” from my feathered friends…I then moved my feeder from the deck to the side yard, where I could watch the birds while I was working in my garden. So try to think of everything before you start. Berry bushes for the birds next to a clothesline isn’t going to work!
First of all, birds need shelter. For bluebirds, this could simply mean a birdhouse on a pole facing the prairie…for nest-building birds, this could mean trees. In my backyard, I started with pine, oak and walnut trees along with bushes with berries and fruit trees. The pines quickly gave the birds a year-round protection against the elements.
Next, birds will need water. I started with a small bird bath, being in Wisconsin I added a heated bird bath in the winter. After reading more about birds, I found that birds are attracted to running water, so I added a pond with a waterfall. Every morning as I walk into the yard, the birds flush from the pond, they love it, and it really increased the amount of birds in my backyard. So start small and then build on it until you achieve the results you’d like to see, remembering that everything you add will require maintenance. Bird baths will need to be washed out, ponds require a lot of work cleaning and changing filters and sometimes even adding chemicals…and if you add fish…plan on more work!
Finally, the food! You can attract some birds naturally by adding plants with berries for the birds. The birds love my cherry tree, grape vines and raspberry bushes! After that, I would start with a tube bird feeder. They work well for many songbirds, but larger birds like blackbirds or grackle will tend to stay away from them. Start with a basic seed mix from any local store. (just about anything will work to attract birds). Sit back and watch. If you bought an inexpensive seed, you’ll see the birds picking through a lot of it, to get what they want. Birds have favorites too! Sunflower seeds are a huge favorite, you can also find a fruit and nut mix, which will cost a little more, but will attract different birds.
Once you are ready for more birds, try adding nectar feeders for hummingbirds and fruit feeders for orioles in the spring or suet feeders year round. You can also multi-purpose your suet baskets and fill them with yarn in the spring for nest building materials.
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