Thursday, November 8, 2012

Attracting Backyard Birds

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is certainly full of birds. You can attract many of these kinds of birds to your backyard if you mimic the “character” of the habitats at Hagerman. (Of course, forget about birds that need lots of space.)

Look around. There’s water, forest, meadows (to be sure, on a grand scale). These are all things you can have in your yard (on a far smaller scale than Hagerman).  These habitats attract birds because they provide food – the center of every bird’s universe. Clearly, birds come to forests, shrubs and meadows because there’s fresh food there. Birds visit birdfeeders for the same reason.
Birdwatching in your backyard differs in that it’s your world, while, at Hagerman, you are in the birds’ world. Food is still king, however. The fresher the food, the more birds will want it. At Hagerman, the birds have totally fresh food – from the plant. In your backyard feeder, however, they depend on you for the freshest food possible. If it’s stale or dried out, birds will go elsewhere.

At Hagerman you certainly see lots of water. Some birds need a lot of water, but for other birds you can mimic this with a birdbath. Yes, it’s only a tiny fraction of the water that’s at Hagerman, but many land birds are attracted by birdbaths full of clean water. What’s more, they need it. Because birds need to keep their feathers clean to fly well, find food and escape predators. Even in winter!

If you’re serious about attracting birds, your yard should have an abundance of native plants – plants that grow naturally here.  Many generations of birds have looked to natives for safe cover and nesting locations. Hybrids, or plants whose ancestors are from elsewhere, are used by birds only as a last resort.

   Now is an excellent time to attract birds to your yard. The odds are much better, since there are many more birds around here in the fall & winter than in spring & summer. After all we’re where many birds migrate to - the south !

Post adapted from article by Nancy Collins, originally published in the Featherless Flyer, January, 2011.  Nancy is a Texas Master Naturalist and was co-owner of the Wild Bird Center in Denton, Texas for a number of years.

ED Note:  Here are some additional tips from the “Backyard Birds in the Fall” presentation at Super Saturday:

Feeders near windows should within 3 feet from the window or fastened to the window or window frame to avoid birds’ striking windows.

Clean bird feeders regularly, immersing in a solution of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water for several minutes, brushing to remove old seed and allowing feeder to dry completely before refilling.

Change water in birdbaths frequently to avoid algae build-up, mosquito larvae in warm weather, and general accumulation of filth from regular use.

Keep pet cats indoors  for their health and safety and the safety of the backyard birds.

Photo:  Northern Cardinal, by Dick Malnory

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