FEED THE BIRDS!
Bird feeders will attract some, but not all bird species to your yard. The best thing about them is that you can place the feeder where you can best view the birds, and have the birds come to you.
Place the feeder close to trees and bushes so the birds will feel safe. Hawks will eventually find your yard if you are attracting many birds to it. Heavier vegetation levels will help even out the playing field. A feeder out in the open will leave the birds very exposed to predation.
Choose high quality bird seed. Many grocery and big box stores sell bird seed mixes with a lot of cheap ingredients. You will find a lot of that seed ends up on the ground and causes problems. It also does not attract the best birds. Overall, the best, broad-range quality seed is probably black oil sunflower. Many birds are strongly attracted to it. Other specialty types are also available. You may have to try several varieties before you find what works the best in your yard. Be sure to keep your seed dry or it will rot very quickly. Storing it in a closed container will prevent moths from breeding in the seed.
Bird feeders work best in neighborhoods with older trees. A new subdivision is essentially a bird desert. You might have to wait several years for success in that situation.
High quality suet will attract more birds than the cheap varieties that get advertised. Make sure you get suet that is stabilized for the hot months if you wish to feed it year round
Orange halves and jelly will attract orioles for the first few weeks in May. They usually stop coming once all the insects come out.
Before you buy any feeders or poles, you should consider how you feel about squirrels, raccoons, and other mammals eating your seed at a very fast pace. You may wish to purchase baffles to place on the pole below each feeder or buy feeders that are squirrel proof. Actually squirrel resistant might be a better term. Squirrels are quite ingenious.
Bird feeders need to be cleaned frequently to keep disease down in bird populations. House finches in particular can get conjunctivitis readily spread at bird feeders. Do not allow your bird feeding to be a negative to the environment.
Hummingbird feeders work well in areas with trees. The sugar water is very easy to make by boiling 4 parts water with 1 part table sugar. Do not add red food coloring since it will hurt the hummingbirds’ kidneys.
Hawks at the Bird Feeder!
Yes, hawks might visit your bird feeders too! While this can be disconcerting and even frustrating if it visits frequently, hawks are protected and hey, they've got to eat too. The most common hawk patrolling our yards for feathered snacks are Cooper's Hawks although Red-tailed hawks are showing up with greater frequency too, preying primarily on furry critters with squirrels and chipmunks being on the menu.
LANDSCAPE YOUR YARD FOR BIRDS!
Native Plantings can attract more birds to your yard, providing both food and shelter. Many berry plants will attract large numbers of birds, particularly in the fall. Native shrubs also have more native caterpillars which will draw in different types of birds that only eat insects. Think of it as a free bird food source!
The Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee is a wonderful resource to guide you if you wish to go native!
Bird houses can be an important conservation aid for some bird species. If you live in an semi-open savannah-like area, a bluebird house is likely to be successful. Other native birds that regularly use bluebird houses are tree swallows, house wrens and chickadees.
Please be sure to not let non-native house sparrows use your boxes as they contribute to the decline of our native species by direct competition for boxes and will actually kill another bird right in the box! If you don't have the heart to keep them from reproducing it is best not to have bird houses.
Other birds that may use an appropriate bird house include woodpeckers, tufted titmice, great crested flycatchers, wood ducks, nuthatches, hooded mergansers, and kestrels in our area. Screech owls will often use wood duck boxes in the winter.
A water source will attract birds. This is especially true if no local water is handy. Make sure this is cleaned often to keep down disease and to make sure mosquitoes do not breed in stagnant water.