Creating Your Own Backyard Paradise
Habitat is the single most important feature for attracting birds and other wildlife to your yard. Simply put, habitat provides all the essentials that birds need to survive: food, water and shelter. Habitat loss is a threat to bird populations all over North America. You can help by making your backyard a sanctuary for your feathered friends. Designing your yard with them in mind creates a welcoming habitat for year-round and migrating birds throughout the seasons and from year to year.
Creating the perfect backyard oasis for your favorite birds is actually very easy, incorporating the important elements of food, water, shelter and plants. Delight in the new species that stop by for a bite to eat, a fresh drink of water or a safe place to hunker down for the night. Let’s get started!
Take a chair, go out into your yard and take a seat. What do you see? Brightly colored flowers? Shady spots or lots of sun? Dense foliage and trees to provide some cover? Sit and observe your backyard birds as they come and go. Watch how they use the existing space to get an idea of how to make it even more enticing to your feathered friends. Make your backyard a retreat, a place to rest after a long flight, a source of natural food and a safe place to raise young birds.
Search out native plants that are local to your region and don’t forget plants that can survive throughout the seasons as well. In addition to eating the fruit, nuts, seeds and berries of these plants, birds use the insects that feed on these plants to feed their young.
Don’t know what’s native to your area? Visit your local garden center and ask for advice or visit this link to the National Audubon Society that simply requires your zip code for added ease! Once entered, you will get a list of the native plants that are most enticing to your favorite bird species. You will want a nice mix of trees, shrubs, shade & sun perennials.
Once planted, forgo the harsh pesticides used to treat gardens. Not only do they build up in bird’s organs and tissues, the run-off contaminates our streams and waterways which are so important to our migrating birds. When your garden is full of native plants, you really shouldn’t need these chemicals anyway! Sit back and enjoy your NEW garden & birds!
Feeders & Food
Feeders are one of the most integral elements to any backyard bird environment. Nothing is more appealing than fresh, nutritious seed and the benefits are countless. As bird habitat declines, the importance of your yard and your feeders cannot be underestimated. The results speak for themselves – bird feeders help maintain bird health, increase bird populations and boost survival rates.
Research also indicates that survival rates were 38% higher in areas where bird feeders were present. Birds at sites with feeders are in overall better health than birds at sites without feeders, including stress and body condition. And sites with bird feeders contributed more young birds to the bird population than sites without feeders. It's a win-win for all!
Information courtesy of WBFI. Compiled by a 2011-2013 study at Millikin University.
Shelter & Food
Some of the most fascinating bird behavior occurs during nesting season. From courting to nest building, laying eggs to feeding hatchlings, there is so much to observe and learn about your backyard birds during this exciting time. Backyard birds will nest in natural spaces such as trees or shrubs or man-made nest boxes placed in the right environment. When searching for the perfect nest box keep a few things in mind; you want something that is sturdily constructed, able to withstand seasonal wear and tear and that is thick enough to insulate during the first spring nights and keep them cool during the hot summer temperatures. Slanted roofs and drainage holes ensure water runs off/out and keeps birds dry. Panels, that can be opened for viewing and cleaning, are another great option.
Each species prefers nesting boxes at particular heights. Some prefer a more wooded area while others, such as bluebirds, prefer wide open spaces. At the end of nesting season, be sure to clean out your boxes and keep them up as birds will roost in them during the chilly fall and winter months.
As more and more natural nesting cavities disappear due to habitat loss, nest boxes are a way for you to become a part of the conservation effort.
Water is just as important for your backyard birds as it is for us humans! Not only is it a source of hydration, it’s the best way for birds to clean and care for their feathers.
Like the flowers, shrubs and houses you place around your yard, birdbaths and water features require a little thought as well. The best idea is to place your bird bath in a fairly flat and somewhat shaded spot in your yard. Too much sun will heat the water too quickly while trees and perches nearby ensures your birds a safe place to preen after washing their delicate feathers. And preen they will! Birds take great care in keeping their feathers in tip top shape so having a bath at the ready is a must.
When searching for the perfect bath or water feature, keep a few things in mind; birds don’t like to bathe in deep water so look for something shallow or with a platform, or simply add a cluster of rocks to give your birds something to sit upon. You can even create a pathway to the middle of the bath and appeal to multiple species by placing stones of varying sizes to accommodate both small and large birds.
Don’t forget the shower! Misters are another great option and often attach directly to the bath. Misters create a gentle movement on the water’s surface, encouraging birds to take notice. It’s also a great way for birds to get a shower, simply by flying through. Then, it’s off to the nearby trees and bushes to–you guessed it, PREEN!
With just a few simple steps and elements, you can can create the ultimate backyard birding sanctuary. Working together, let us turn your backyard into a Wild Bird Center!