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Birds bring life and color to your yard. There are many different species of birds, birds for varying seasons, states, and types of feeders and birdhouses. Our guide to birds can give you the information you need to recognize and attract birds in your own backyard.
Providing a variety of foods will meet nutritional needs and attract different species. Seed mixes, seed cakes, black oil sunflower seed, peanuts, thistle and suet (which melts above 70° F) are all easily available.
Feeding with seed and / or suet supplements the natural supply of natural seeds and the few overwintering insects that birds are able to locate.
Native plants, especially those that produce late-season seed and fruit, that birds eat are also an excellent choice. Holly (the female plants produce seeds), cotoneaster, juniper, pyracantha, dogwood, viburnum and sunflowers provide a natural buffet. Note that trees and shrubs also provide habitat for insects, which are a food source.
Feeding will not prevent migratory birds from their instinctive journey. In fact, changes in daylight hours prompt migration, not food availability.
If you start feeding, keep feeding. Birds will become dependent on you. If you stop feeding, they will most likely leave to find food elsewhere, but don't be surprised if they are reluctant to come back when you do resume feeding.
Using a variety of feeders will attract different types of birds as well. Feeders are made as ground, pole-mounted or tube-type. Shelter the feeder from elements as much as possible, while still maintaining space from shrubs that might harbor predators.
A fresh water supply is just as important, if not more so, in winter than in summer. In addition to food, birds need water in the wintertime, when natural sources may not be available. The simplest way to provide water in colder areas is to add an immersion heater to your existing birdbath. Make sure you use an outdoor use-rated extension cord. Keep the water and bath clean year-round.
Predators are still active in the winter, both the ones that only seek bird food (like squirrels) and the ones that are after the birds themselves. Maintain a safe habitat for birds.
City or country, providing water during the summer months may let you attract some bird varieties you normally would not see.
Locate the water source close (but no closer than 15 inches) to the feeder. Also have it close to shelter so the visitors can make a quick escape if necessary. They can also use nearby branches to perch and dry.
Buy a pedestal bird bath or use any receptacle from home - as long as it is no more than 2 -3" deep. The bath also needs to have sloping sides and a rough finish to allow bathers to get a foothold. Elevate the bath or place one at ground level (or both, some birds prefer to eat, drink and bathe near the ground). Use anything from a clay saucer to a trash can lid as a ground level water source. Just make sure the area is free from predators.
The sound of moving or dripping water attracts even more avian visitors. A mister offers a shower as an alternative to a bath. Ponds and fountains will also bring birds to the landscape.
You MUST keep bird baths and feeders clean. The areas around baths and feeders should be kept clean as well. Warmer weather breeds more pests and diseases.
Change the water regularly. Clean the bath to keep algae from growing. Vigorous scrubbing with a nylon brush should be sufficient if done it's frequently.