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Mar 23, 2022
The Early Bird Gets the Worm
There’s little more relaxing than listening to the birds chirping in your backyard as the days grow warmer and brighter. Birds can be picky about their nesting sites, and growing habitat loss is making it increasingly more difficult for them to find safe places to feed, bathe, and raise their young. Luckily, we can all do our part in helping our feathered friends thrive. Find out how to make your garden bird-friendly and encourage birds to stop by or make themselves at home in your backyard!
Since different bird species have different nesting and feeding preferences, start by researching the types of birds you'd like to attract to your yard to get the right supplies. Just a few common bird species of the Northwest are:
- Western Meadowlarks
- Black-Capped Chickadees
- Dark-eyed Juncos
- Red-breasted Nuthatches
Some birds like the Western Meadowlark will prefer rural yards with open areas, ample access to grass seeds, and a safe place to nest on the ground. Other birds such as Chickadees aren’t too fussy if the basic needs of food, water, shelter, and nesting material are met.
For a variety of bird visitors, it’s best to offer a variety of feeders at varying heights throughout your yard. Once a bird has discovered a food location, it tends to rely on it and return frequently. If the feeder remains empty for several days, the bird will look elsewhere and stop coming to your yard.
Some common types of bird feeders are:
- Platform Bird Feeders: Simple and versatile, seeds or other bird feed scattered on platform feeders are an easily recognizable source of food. They are great for larger birds and ground-feeding birds but these feeders aren’t sheltered from weather, droppings, and other animals.
- Seed Feeders: This type of feeder can be made of mesh for birds to pick seeds out of, or the seeds are kept in a holding chamber and dispensed through openings. Many of these feeders have cages around the holding chamber to deter squirrels and larger birds.
- Suet Feeders: This style of feeder features a wire cage to surround your suet cake or suet balls. Some suet feeders even come as a combination with a mesh seed feeder compartment.
- Nectar Feeders: Designed to hold liquid bird feed or nectar, these feeders are usually red - a color that flower-seeking hummingbirds are highly attracted to. It is important to change your feeder's nectar on a regular basis; every two days during hot weather, once a week during milder weather. These feeders are best placed in an area that gets a good mix of sun and shade throughout the day.
There are many things to consider when buying food for your feathered friends. Here are a few common options:
- Black-Oil Sunflower Seed - Attracts a wide variety of birds such as cardinals, nuthatches, and finches.
- Safflower Seed - Attracts northern cardinals, house finches, and mourning doves. Squirrels generally leave this type of seed alone so it works well for platform feeders.
- Suet - Many bird species love suet, but woodpeckers, wrens, nuthatches, and jays are some of the most common birds you’ll find at a suet feeder. This feed can be purchased as a cake or ball of solid animal fat with nuts, seeds, mealworms, or other ingredients.
- Nyjer Thistle Seed - A favorite for American Goldfinches, pine siskins, an other small wild birds. This tiny black seed is best used with a tube seed feeder.
Since feathers need to be kept in pristine condition for optimal flight, birds take the business of bathing very seriously. Birds fly long distances during migration and must be on the lookout for water sources to prevent dehydration. Featuring a bird bath in your yard will attract birds looking to remain cool and hydrated. A backyard fountain will help encourage even more visitors, as birds know to listen for the sound of running water.
Keeping house pets and young children away from nests is important to make sure mother birds feel safe and chicks remain unharmed before they have a chance to spread their wings and avoid danger. It is a myth that mother birds will reject chicks that have been handled by humans since they have a very limited sense of smell. However, when trying to return a young bird to its nest, make sure it's not a fledgling that has purposefully left. An easy way to tell is that fledglings have feathers while nestlings do not.
Many birds will happily make use of bird houses, especially Wrens, Chickadees, Bluebirds, and Robins. It is important to clean out the bird houses at the end of the nesting season though as birds prefer to rebuild their nests the following year rather than using an old one.
Hummingbirds are a unique species, requiring a different type of diet than your average backyard bird. Don’t let their size fool you, these tiny birds pack a ferocious appetite! A hanging basket or window box of flowers can help provide a good source of nutrients for hummingbirds. A great supplement to natural flower nectar is hummingbird food mix, which can be poured into a nectar feeder. Never use honey or artificial sweeteners and dyes in a nectar feeder!
To encourage hummingbirds to visit your yard, plant flowering native plants they enjoy, such as:
- Cardinal Flower
- Sage Flower
Hummingbirds like to nest near a nectar supply, so maintaining trees and shrubbery for perching and nesting close to your flowers will encourage them to stay.
Check out our Birds & Wildlife section to shop our wide variety of bird products!