Birds in the Backyard
Setting up bird feeders around your house is a great way to start learning about birds and help keep your local bird population healthy and well-fed, too!
Most birds will regularly visit a tray feeder filled with a good quality feed. To attract the greatest variety of birds, you can make your own mix containing sunflower seeds, nuts, peanuts, safflower seeds and other grains - all favorites of cardinals, titmice, nuthatches and sparrows. Set your tray feeder in an open area, away from trees or overhanging eaves that marauding squirrels can use as launchings pads for raids on your feeder.
Perch feeders are ideal for smaller birds like finches, and are especially designed for their smaller beaks and feet. Finches are especially fond of thistle seed and will regularly visit a reliable source of their favorite food, especially during the spring and fall migration. You'll be especially charmed by the bright yellow plumage of goldfinches that will flock to your perch feeder.
Birds are by nature cautious animals, so don't expect them to come to your feeders as soon as you set them up. Be patient. Within two or three days, you'll start to see visitors. Be sure to clean your feeders regularly and fill them with fresh seed. You can increase the number of birds you attract by creating a bird-friendly yard.
Besides providing feeders, there are lots of other things you can do to make your yard attractive to birds.
Some simple landscaping can provide shelter from summer sun and winter winds with shrubs and small trees like arborvitae or white cedar; and planting berry and fruit-producing yews and crabapple can provide a alternate source of winter food for birds when you're away and can't regularly fill your feeders.
In the fall, don't "deadhead" all your perennials. Leave some with the dried heads on them, since birds love to feast on the seeds. If you have an open field or pasture nearby, let a portion of it grow wild to provide grasses and low shrubs for food and sheltered perching sites.
Finally, make sure you provide a source of water. Especially in areas with freezing winters, non-migrating birds may find it difficult locating a reliable water source. If freezes are common in your area, you can use a submersible heater to keep the water liquid.