August 28, 2014

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Manage a Backyard Bird Habitat

For many nature enthusiasts, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing wildlife right in your own backyard. Birds are often welcome outdoor visitors, and homeowners look for ways to entice birds to take up roost in their landscape.
Providing several different types of foods can be the first step to welcoming a variety of birds to your yard. Bill Askenburg, a backyard birding enthusiast and maker of custom birdhouses, says he offers thistle seed to attract finches and chickadees. A nut and berry mix is set out for woodpeckers, and a sunflower/safflower mix attracts cardinals, wrens, doves, and blue jays. A few different feeders placed at various heights or hung from branches on your property can attract an abundance of wildlife.
Feeding birds is one way to enjoy their company. However if you’re looking for a different relationship, some other features can increase the chances that birds will nest and raise young in your backyard habitat.
Naturally, the species of birds that you can attract to your backyard depends on the birds native to your area and the types of structures they tend to use as nests. For example, certain birds nest in cliffs, high atop trees or in abandoned chimneys. Therefore, you’ll have to attract the types of feathered friends that will find your yard habitable. Here are some ways to do so.
• A hands-off approach may work best. It’s easy to want to remove felled trees, tall grasses or old brush from the yard. However, these items, while eyesores to you, could be the very spots certain birds deem worthy for their nests. The same can be said for abandoned nests from last season: leave them in place. They could be reoccupied by birds or taken apart for nesting material.
• Tall trees will attract a number of birds that prefer nests in the high branches, such as jays and mourning doves. If you have such trees on your property, keep a trained eye on nesting activity.
• Think about placing nesting boxes around the yard. This will attract birds that prefer the protected cavities of small hollows for their nests. The nesting boxes will compensate for lost habitats where these birds would normally nest.
• Water fountains and birdbaths that are frequently refreshed with clean water provide drinking water and bathing opportunities for birds. Birds are hard-pressed to resist the gentle trickle of water.
• Enhance your backyard habitat by choosing both native and ornamental plantings that provide seed or berries for the birds you wish to attract. These natural options can be used in conjunction with packaged seeds and berries you offer as other food sources.
Remember, variety is the spice of life, and is also the way to attract birds to your yard. Having a variety of food sources, nesting opportunities, flowers, and hiding spots available will help ensure the greatest chance for wildlife taking up residence in your backyard.
If you need help planning your bird habitat, there are many books you can check out at the library or contact a local National Audubon Society chapter or center.