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Attracting Birds to Your Backyard

January 17, 2018 | Kathy Adams Clark

Backyards big or small can be a haven for birds. Birds will come to a large grassy lot with trees or a balcony with container plants.

Birds are attracted to a space that has three things:

  • Food

  • Water

  • Shelter

Food is the first big consideration to bringing birds into your yard or balcony. Shelled sunflower seeds are a favorite because the hulls have been removed and no waste falls to the ground to attract mice and rats. Shelled sunflower seed is a bit more expensive but the food goes a long way because there is no waste.

Avoid packaged birdfeed that contains millet, milo, and wheat. Watch for little white seeds common in bird feed that comes from a grocery store. Northern cardinals, blue jays, and Carolina chickadee don’t eat these seeds. Blackbird and grackles do, though.

Birdfeed from area nature stores such as Wild Bird Unlimited, feed stores, and locally owned garden centers is usually fresher than that found in big box stores.

Birds like suet. Suet is a mixture of seeds, nuts, and fruit held together with a peanut butter matrix. Carolina wrens, pine warblers, and red-bellied woodpeckers love suet cakes.

Avoid suet cakes held together with a whitish or fat-based matrix. These are designed for cooler, northern climates and spoil in our heat.

Bird baths are a great way to add water to your habitat. Traditional concrete bird baths are best. Birds only need an inch of water to drink or bath. Concrete bird baths last twenty or more years.

The rough surface of a concrete bird bath gives birds something to grip in the event they need to fly quickly away to avoid a predator. Glass or ceramic bird baths are pretty but the bathing area needs to be rough. Toss in a few handfuls of dirt and let a bit of algae grow. This creates a natural surface that birds prefer.

Shelter is the last item needed to create a bird habitat. Birds need a place to hide when a hawk or cat enters the area.

Place feeders and birdbaths five to ten feet from a tree, shrub, or potted plant. Birds won’t cross a vast open area to feed or bathe. Place plants on two sides to create an ideal habitat.

Consider natives when planting around feeders in a yard or on a balcony. Yaupon and American beautyberry are lovely to look at and provide berries for our birds. Golden dewdrop (Duranta) is a large showy plant with purple flowers in summer and golden berries in fall. This can be grown in a container or in the ground. Porterweed (Stachytarpheta) is another favorite. It’s cold hardy and produces lovely purple blooms from spring to the first frost. Butterflies also like golden dewdrop and Porterweed.

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