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Attracting Wild Birds to Your Backyard

By Edited Mar 15, 2016 1 0

One of the many great pleasures of the outdoors is being able to watch a variety of wild birds and wildlife

Eastern Bluebird
come to you. By setting up your yard to be hospitable to wild birds, you will have hours of enjoyment, listening to their beautiful songs and watching their engaging antics. But even more importantly, wild birds play a vital role in keeping down the population of insects, rodents, reptiles, and weeds, and by learning to attract wild birds to your back yard or garden, you can increase your neighbourhood's biodiversity, and help to diminish the amount of toxic chemicals used for insectides and insect repellents, herbicides and weed killers, and reap the benefits of natural insect control. In addition, you might be saving these birds from disappearing, such as fanciers did for the Eastern Bluebirds, which almost became extinct. Thanks to the efforts of just a few hundred people, the Eastern Bluebird was saved from extinction, and is now returning to its native area.

Wild birds all have things in common, regardless of their species or habits. Wild birds of whatever species need a source of food, a source of water, a source of shelter, and a place to raise their young. Whether they are migratory birds, who merely stop by on their way somewhere else for a snack, or whether they raise young in your back yard and then move on, or whether they decide to become inhabitants of your back yard all year round, by providing these necessities, you will ensure a hospitable welcome for these engaging birds, and keep them safe from predators, and perhaps from extinction!

One of the most important things you can do to encourage wild birds to take up residence in your back yard is to plant a large variety of plants. Yes, you will probably lose a few fruits and vegetables to a few birds, but remember that they play an enormous role in keeping insects and weeds under control. Many of them also are vital for pollination or spreading seeds, and therefore you should do your best to count your blessings. You can always keep your prized fruits and vegetables safe with some netting, and plant other plants that have fruits that are desirable for birds, and not so desirable for people, and let the birds feast on what would otherwise be inedible to us. Remember that almost all birds, including seed eaters, feed insects to their young, who need a heavy diet of protein.

Birds live in all kinds of habitats, and so need a variety of shelters. Some birds nest on or close to the ground; others in the forks of trees; others in tall grasses or dense shrubs, and still others at the very tops of trees. Some birds prefer to be hidden; others like to command an unbroken view of their surroundings. By having all these kinds of plants in your back yard, along with a dead tree or two, you will be providing a wide variety of birds with a safe place to call home.

As far as water, different birds prefer different kinds of water available. Many birds love oscillating lawn sprinklers, and even with watering restrictions in place, you can set out one of the oscillating lawn sprinklers for an hour or so a few times a week. Other birds prefer still water, or dripping water. If you have a birdbath, if it is concrete, make sure that it is sealed with a safe, nontoxic sealant, and that you scrub it thoroughly at least once a week, preferably every other day. Stone birdbaths may not need sealing, but will still need to be cleaned thoroughly. Make sure that you are using cleaners that are safe for birds!
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With water restrictions that are in effect in so many areas, running oscillating sprinklers may be against your local watering codes. However, for those birds that have evolved to drink from droplets in the air, this solar fountain may provide them with the water they need, and the movement will help discourage mosquitoes from breeding in your bird baths.

If you want to have birds in your back yard, you must remember that birds eat insects and weeds, therefore, you will want to make sure that you do not use insecticides or weed killers. Let the birds do the work. Otherwise, the same toxins that kill the insects or the weeds will build up in the birds' bodies, and you will end up poisoning the very birds you wish to attract, or depriving them of their food sources. Organic lawn and garden maintenance can be difficult to become accustomed to, but the rewards in supporting bird populations will more than make up for the trouble of adjusting.

If you are trying to attract birds that will raise young in your yard, you must also make sure that they have a suitable place to nest, and suitable nesting materials. Each species has a unique set of requirements; some species have adapted quite well to living in close proximity to humans, and others have not adapted well to human presence. By researching the kinds of nests and birdhouses that different species of birds prefer, you will be able to attract those you desire by providing those nesting boxes or birdhouses at just the right height, with just the right dimensions, and made from just the right kinds of materials. Do not put out just any old birdhouse and expect to get the right results. Birds are far choosier about their houses than humans are, and they are far less adaptable to change, because they have evolved to exist in very specific environmental niches.

By learning the requirements that each species of birds has for survival, you will be able to set up your back yard in such a way as to attract your desired species , and you will be able to enjoy seeing wild birds close at hand, hearing their song, watching their antics, and learning how birds are able to control insect populations and weeds. The little amount of effort spent learning about their needs will pay off handsomely for years to come, and your back yard will be a haven for the wild birds that are so necessary to the balance of nature. You will also be helping your neighbourhood's biodiversity, helping to eliminate toxic chemicals from the environment, and ensuring the survival not only of specific birds, but perhaps of entire species, that otherwise would vanish.

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Tallamy's vision of "the fundamental interconnectedness of all things" (to steal a phrase from Douglas Adams) is crucial to understanding how ecosystems work, and what we can do to establish a working environment. More than that, this book helps us understand the overwhelming importance that even small changes can make.
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