Did you know that after gardening, feeding wild birds is the second most popular hobby in North America? And no wonder – it’s a real pleasure to look out of your window and see a variety of birds hopping around.
But it there aren’t any birds in your garden…why is that?
Well here is a general guide to show you how to attract a variety of birds into your garden and just as important, how to make sure they keep coming back.
Provide the Basics
All types of birds require three things:
2. Water – for drinking and bathing
3. Shelter – from the weather and possible predators
The more types of food that you have on offer in your garden, the more birds you will attract. Different breeds of bird prefer different foods. For example, birds with short beaks, like sparrows and finches will mostly eat seeds. You can buy bags of wild bird seed online or at most garden centers – or plant flowers or plants that seed.
Birds with more pointy beaks enjoy insects and soft food like fruits and berries. So try planting some fruit bushes and shrubs or flowers that attract insects and the birds will follow. To maximize the food available, don’t clip your hedges or if you must, just prune selected branches that are sticking up. It’s best to prune in the winter so that all fruit has been eaten but before the birds want to start building their nests just as spring arrives.
Lawns are full of worms during the wetter months but during high summer, they are much more difficult to find. You could place a pile of wood somewhere in your garden and as it rots, it will attract a host of insects and therefore – birds.
If you are lucky enough to live in an area with hummingbirds, make sure that you have flowers rich in nectar in your garden. These would include gladiolus or lilies.
Alternatively, hang up several special Hummingbird feeders which are inexpensive and should be easily available in your area or online. Fill these with a mixture of sugar and water and then simply enjoy these magical birds.
Don’t forget to have food on offer all year round. Birds are small creatures and so they metabolize their food very quickly and need a constant supply. During the fall and winter, it’s a good idea to set up a bird table or a variety of feeders but make sure that they are high off the ground and out of the reach of neighborhood cats.
If the weather is particularly windy or there is a fall of snow, go out check the table and feeders and replenish or clear as necessary. Don’t forget to check their water and if it’s frozen, give them a fresh supply.
There are many manufactured suet bird food ‘cakes’ and discs that fit into feeders and these are all great. But it’s also fun to make your own – and probably less expensive. Try tying some string to the top of a pine cone so that you can hang it and then smother it in peanut butter. Once it’s well coated, roll it in a pile of seeds or very well chopped nuts. The classic home made treat for birds is half a coconut strung to a feeder.
Every living creature needs water to survive and birds are no exception. You may provide food and shelter for them but if there’s no water, they will go looking elsewhere so it’s a real necessity.
If you have a stream or pond in your garden, the birds will love that. Be sure to add a few stones at the edge of the water for smaller birds to perch on. Birds aren’t keen on water that is more than 2 or 3 inches deep – especially songbirds because they can’t swim – so providing an area at the edge is helpful, especially if you can get that edge to slope very gradually.
If you have a natural ‘dip’ anywhere on your land, this can easily be made into a drinking and bathing area. Circle it with sand, stones or pebbles as birds don’t like to slip and slide. The area may naturally fill with water during the fall and winter but you may need to help it along with a hose during the summer.
If you don’t have any the above, you could buy a bird bath. Bird baths have come along way and are available in many materials such as stone, bronze, wrought iron, copper, ceramic and resin. The range of designs should suit every taste for minimalist modern to Victoriana ornate, free standing or hanging. You can even get solar power heated or ones with a light so that you can view birds at dusk. Some have integral fountains which recycle the water on a ‘loop’ by means of a low voltage pump. The prices ranges from tens of dollars to hundreds so do have a good look online before committing yourself.
If you need to fill the bath yourself, wherever possible make sure it’s near a water source such as an outdoor faucet as this will make maintenance much easier you will probably need to fill it every day during the summer. Birds keep a constant eye out for predators, so position the bath in an open, sunny area, away from overhanging branches or bushes that could hide them and the birds will flock to your bath.
You’ll need to empty the bath and scrub it at least every 2 to 3 days during the summer. This will stop algae and bacteria from spoiling the water and making it green, slimy and smelly. During the winter, you will need to be vigilant in case the bath ices over but heated bird baths are now available so you could invest in one of those!
Water features are popular in gardens now and birds will love them too but they will prefer the ones that drip gently, tinkle prettily. Waterfall types are overwhelming and scary for small birds.
This can be as simple as trees or bushes in your garden or you may like to provide bird houses. If this is the case, offer a variety that will suit the birds native to your area. Make sure that they are strongly fixed to a tree or post and are high enough up to avoid predators. If possible, fix them where you can see them easily so that you can enjoy watching them coming and going.
If these three basic requirements are constantly on offer, it won’t be long before your garden is a haven for a variety of birds which will give you endless pleasure all the year round.