For the Birds

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bird watching

Bird watching can be one of the most peaceful and yet equally exciting activities in nature. The opportunity to see old favorites alongside newcomers, many of which may only pass through the area, evokes a sense of wonder for watchers of all ages. Lucky for us, the more we are willing to invest in their well-being, the more likely we are to see our favorite birds – especially during the winter months. A small time investment coupled with the tips for success seen below can turn your yard into a sanctuary that is truly for the birds.

If You Feed Them, They Will Come

In late winter and early spring, when food for birds can be a scarcity, yard-staked or tree-hung feeders can be an essential source of sustenance for winged beauties, which means it’s also an easy way to be hospitable and welcome birds to your yard. If you’re unsure about the type of seed to use in your feeders, I recommend black oil sunflower seeds. It tends to be favored by numerous species and will likely bring a returning variety of birds to your yard. Remember to keep the feeding schedule consistent and continue at least until the start of spring, as the late days of winter can be the hardest to find food.

I would also consider setting up multiple bird feeding stations around your yard, if space allows. This will not only give you more opportunities to view the birds, but will also keep one bird from becoming too dominant at a feeder. Finally, place the feeder or feeders in a spot that’s easily visible from indoors, so you can enjoy the birds’ beauty without intruding on their dinnertime.

Water, Water Everywhere

Water is equally important when it comes to creating an attractive atmosphere for birds – after all, they’ll need something to help wash down all that birdseed! What’s more, birds need to frequently wash their feathers, hence the term birdbath. Set up a birdbath or two in your yard as a way to invite them onto your lawn.

Position the birdbath near the feeders, but not too close (at least 5 feet away). You want the birds to see it and know that it’s a part of their environment, yet you don’t want it to be close enough for bird droppings or discarded seed to fill its basin and contaminate the water. Keep it filled with fresh water, and clean it on a regular basis. During winter months, it’s especially crucial to make sure there is a fresh water supply in the birdbath, as many water sources may be frozen leaving the resource scarce.

Home Safe Home

In order for your environment to be attractive, birds need to feel safe and able to quickly escape from predators while in it. For example, if you choose to place a birdbath in your yard – as mentioned earlier – you may want to position it near a low-hanging branch so bathing or drinking birds can easily fly to the branch to escape predators. The same goes for feeders; place them 5 to 10 feet from shrubs or tree branches to offer an easy escape route.

Squirrels, in particular, can wreak havoc on a bird-feeding environment. You can purchase feeders that will close when squirrels try to access the seed; however, I think the best way to deter squirrels from our feathered friends’ area is to give them their own area and feeder. It’s no secret that squirrels love corn. Set up a dried corn feeder in a separate area of the yard that will keep them away from birds, and you’ll be helping two kinds of animals to get their meals.

Prime Plantings

When you are digging into the garden this spring, consider adding a few trees and shrubs that will help to attract birds to your yard throughout the year. Berries are especially important to have in the garden in colder months as some bird species will change their diets to incorporate them. In the Tennessee area, try American beautyberry, which has purple fruit that should last through mid-winter or try traditional holly bushes. You can also consider planting flowering dogwoods, crabapples or white oak trees for nest sites. And finally, think about vines, which can be used for nest building, when considering your overall landscape plan.

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