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It’s never been more important to find ways to bring avian visitors to our backyards. And what surprises people is just how easy it is to do when you take the right approach.
How to Make Your Backyard a Haven for Birds
Regardless of what resources you have and how much or little time you have to dedicate to welcoming birds to your garden, there are things you can do. The more of these things you do, the more you’ll notice birds visiting.
Here are our top tips on making your garden a haven for birds.
1. Provide a Range of Bird Feeders
One of the most important things to keep in mind when looking at bird feeders is that not all birds feed in the same way. This means that not all bird feeders will be suitable across the board. In order to attract the most birds to your garden, it’s essential to use a wide range of different bird feeders.
There are generally six types of bird feeders. If you can get your hands on all six then we’d urge you to do this. Otherwise, get as many as you can and you’ll be rewarded by seeing lots of different species.
2. Place Feeders at the Best Locations for Birds
When choosing a location for your bird feeder, you must be savvy. Birds will not come to a feeder if they feel threatened or unsafe while eating. For this reason, one of the most important things to think about is shelter. This offers some cover from predators but it is a good idea to occasionally move your bird tables around to stop ambush predators from getting too used to their position.
Also, think about other animals that might come and take the food, such as squirrels. If this is a problem where you live, you can buy a squirrel baffle which goes over the top of the feeder and stops the squirrel from coming in from above.
Moreover, think about how different types of birds feed. There are some ground feeding birds, so you will need to place a platform feeder lower down or even sprinkle food under shrubs. Some birds like to feed out of the crevices in tree bark, so don’t forget to smear food in here too and cater to as many species as you can.
3. Keep Bird Feeders Clean
Just as you wouldn’t want to eat at a filthy dining table, birds will not be attracted to unkempt feeding areas. What’s more, if you don’t keep your bird feeders clean, there is a risk of diseases being passed among the avian community.
There are a lot of infections that can be transmitted through saliva so a feeder could be a real breeding ground for bacteria. Keeping the area clean isn’t difficult, be sure to remove all debris first and then you can simply scrub it using hot soapy water and give it a thorough rinse afterwards.
Also remember to regularly change your seed. It can quite easily become rotten or moldy, and this can cause health problems for the birds. This is especially true of feeders where food can easily get stuck, such as tube feeders, so make sure you stay on top of things.
4. Use a Variety of Bird Feed
All birds are attracted to different foods, so if you want the largest number of species to come to your backyard, you’ll need to be diverse in the types of food you offer. For absolute beginners, there is an incredibly handy tool called the Project FeederWatch Tool which allows you to enter your region to discover a whole host of local birds and what they like to eat. It’ll also give you information on the best type of feeder and where it should be placed.
There are lots of different seeds to choose from, but here is a basic rundown of some of the most common types and what they’re likely to attract.
5. Install a Water Feature
Installing lots of bird feeders is one way to attract this type of wildlife to your garden, but these animals also need water and plenty of it. That’s why it’s a really good idea to install a water feature. Even if you don’t have space for something large and ornate like a fancy pond, something as simple as a bowl of water will do the trick.
A simple birdbath is a great choice as this gives the birds something to drink and somewhere to bathe. Just remember that your bird bath or any other water feature doesn’t need to be deep. If you do install a pond, it is recommended that you have a sloped shallow area for birds. It’s also worth considering the placement of your birdbath as you’ll want it out of the way of predators. Elevating a bird bath will ensure that animals like cats cannot pounce onto it.
You will need to make sure to maintain your water feature. In winter, if the water freezes, you will need to tend to this. Even if there are just small pieces of ice present, melt these with warm water so that the bird’s access to the water isn’t limited. Something as simple as floating a small ball in the water can prevent ice from forming.
It’s also essential to keep the water clean, and you should aim to replace it every day. Moreover, you’ll need to clean your birdbath using a high pressure hose to remove dirt. Do try to avoid the use of detergents or soaps as this could contaminate the water source.
6. Attract Insects into Your Backyard
We were all made aware of the Circle of Life when Disney released the movie, The Lion King. But this life cycle doesn’t just apply to the plains of Africa. There are circles of life going on in every ecosystem, including your backyard.
If you want to attract birds, then you need to supply them with a food source and what do birds eat in nature? Insects! This means also attracting a wide variety of critters to your yard such as spiders, caterpillars, beetles, and many others.
We have a more in-depth article giving you some handy tips on bringing insects to your garden, but one of the most obvious ways is to plant native plants. These will thrive far better than non-native species and so will draw in a lot of native wildlife. Once there is a healthy insect community, birds will come to the table more readily.
If you don’t have enough room to plant a lot of native plants, then you could try making a bug hotel. This is a structure that contains different habitats that are suitable for a range of bugs.
7. Set-Up Nest Boxes in Your Backyard
Birds are vulnerable animals, and many of them require places to shelter and nest which is why it’s essential to provide your feathered visitors with a nest box. But don’t just set up one or two, the more you can install, the more birds you are likely to attract.
It is possible to buy nest boxes, but you can also make your own. In any case, it is best to avoid those that have perches. The birds won’t use these, and this could make it easier for predators to access the eggs inside.
You will also need to make sure that the nest box is well insulated and somewhere that the bird can easily access it. Depending on the type of species you are looking to attract, you may also need to invest in a number of different-sized nest boxes.
Fix the bird boxes to a tree or post. For things like tits and sparrows, the box will need to be around two to four meters high and should not be exposed to high winds or full sun all day long.
8. Plant Shrubs & Trees That Attract Birds
Birds use plants, trees, and shrubs for a variety of reasons, including food and shelter. For this reason, it is essential to plant a wide variety in your garden if you’re looking to attract more avian friends. Native plants and trees are preferable as these will bring in birds from your local ecosystem as well as a lot of species of bugs and insects.
Not only will plants create space for shelter and provide food but they will also mimic the birds’ natural habitats so they’ll come much more freely. But you need to think about the types of birds you would like to attract in order to choose the right plants and trees.
For example, many bird species are attracted by colors, particularly those that are similar to their own species. So be sure to plant a range of colored flowering plants. These also contain nectar and many will bear fruit such as barberry and winterberry.
Berries are an important food source for birds and you’ll find lots of different shrubs that produce them. Firethorns produce bright orange/reddish berries that attract a lot of birds and what’s great is this is a hardy shrub that will thrive in all conditions. The American cranberry bush is also a good choice as it’ll attract birds and doesn’t tend to attract pests.
Hummingbirds are one of the most wanted visitors to the garden. Not only are they beautiful to observe, but they’re also excellent pollinators. Planting things like bee balm as well as the butterfly bush is a surefire way to attract them.
9. Provide Natural Shelter & Cover
Birds will not come to your garden if they do not feel safe, and since they are vulnerable to predators, you need to make sure that they have somewhere to shelter. Shrubs and hedges are ideal for smaller species, but if you have any dead trees in your garden, these can be a real haven for birds, so resist the temptation to move them. Not only this, but the insects that live in dead wood are a food source for many bird species.
Don’t forget the birds that spend a lot of time on the ground; these require shelter too. The best way to offer this is by building a simple brush pile. You can add branches, twigs, and even your Christmas tree when you’re done with it!
If you grow a lot of annual plants it can be tempting to tidy these up once they’re done for the year. But things like purple coneflowers and daisies can be left as they are since they create a wonderful shelter for lots of different birds.
10. Reduce the Use of Pesticides & Herbicides
If you are looking to create a natural and safe habitat for birds then you will need to reduce or eliminate entirely the use of chemicals in your garden. Not only do things like pesticides and herbicides cause harm for birds, but they can also be dangerous for insects which are a main food source for the birds.
As many as 67 million birds are thought to die each year in the United States alone through poisoning from garden chemicals. It’s never been more important to cut down on what we use, especially when there are so many natural alternatives.
Some of the most harmful chemicals are those that we use to keep our lawns free from weeds. While it is always best to opt for natural methods for weed control, there are some chemicals that are considered safer for birds. If you are going to use them, then look out for things like nematodes, rotenone, and vinegar among others.