What a delightful way to spend an afternoon — watching colorful feathered creatures flit about the yard. Hummingbirds that hover, jays that scrap over scraps, robins tugging earthworms!
Just as you don’t visit places that aren’t welcoming, birds don’t visit every back yard. To watch them play, you need to make them welcome. Food, water, and shelter are good places to start.
Like people, birds have preferences in foods. Blue jays, crows and ravens will eat nearly anything. Some are collectors and their nests may contain anything attractive enough to catch their eyes. Bread, coarse grains, fruit peels, and seeds will keep them around-and chase off smaller, more desirable birds.
To attract hummingbirds, serve their favorite foods. Hummingbird nectar is commercially available, or you can make your own by heating a four-to-one sugar-water solution (four parts sugar, one part water). Humming birds love color and food coloring isn’t really good for them. Why not provide nature’s food for these lovely creatures instead? Plant colorful summer annuals in hanging baskets and watch them eat plant nectar.
To keep robins on your guest list, be sure your garden has earthworms. They’re good for the soil anyway, so they’ll do double duty. Worms come out morning and evening, the best time to watch this handsome bird. Robins don’t digest grains well.
Grains do attract a wide variety of birds, but mix your own for the best quality. Suet (hard beef fat) attracts woodpeckers and chickadees, among others. Hang suet feeders upside down to discourage starlings. They cannot feed upside down.
For shelter, learn which homes each bird prefers-some like cute little houses and some don’t. Most prefer natural wood over painted houses. Scores of birds will nest in houses, and houses are designed for particular birds. Martins like multiple openings in a single structure. Kestrels are miniature hawks and will nest high off the ground, even in 60-foot trees.
Small owl species will eat rodents and other live creatures, but they’ll eat small birds, too. Attract owls if you have a five-acre back yard– they are beautiful. Otherwise, visit them at one of the nation’s 27 estuaries, where food is plentiful.
Water may be provided in cups or bird baths, but that brings up another requirement for attracting birds: safety. If the family cat can reach your birds’ favorite water source, it will. Place houses, feeders, and waterers out of reach.