Birding: How to Attract Birds to Your Backyard
family fun • family fun-traditions
When I was in elementary school, I was a dreamer. And a nerd. Some girls dream of being princesses. My dream? Talking to birds. I was convinced I was the Bird Whisperer.
Not only was I convinced I could talk to them, but would stand outside my front yard like a statue. I'd wait for them to land on my outstretched hand. I would use mental telepathy and lure them to my fingers. To my dismay, I never had a bird land on my hand. They must not have known I was the Bird Whisperer.
Truth be told, I may have watched too many episodes of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
Why are the princesses always talking to birds?
My fairytale may not have come true as the Bird Whisperer, but the childhood love for birds has stayed with me throughout the years. When we moved into our first home, we were instantly drawn to their sweet little songs and began to take an interest.
We hung bird houses, purchased a bird bath and hung bird feeders and watched the birds go about their merry day. As I’d hand-wash the dishes, I loved looking out the window to see my little friends. I did feel rather Cinderella-like.
For almost ten years now, we have been attracting birds to our yard and have been impressed by the species that have been attracted to our little piece of Eden.
How to Attract Birds to Your Backyard
Here is a simple guide to attracting birds to your backyard.
To start, can you identify the following birds?
These are common birds that you may find in your backyard:
- Common Finch
- Mountain Chickadee
- Gold Finch
- American Robin
- Morning Dove
- Blue Jay
- Anna’s Hummingbird
- Barn Swallow
- European Starling
- Downy Woodpeckers
- Northern Flicker
- Common Grosbeak
Attracting birds to your backyard is very simple. All you need is some bird seeds, a water source and shelter.
1. Bird Food: Seeds, Suet & Nectar
Birds eat seeds, nuts, suet cakes (fat) and nectar. Seeds come in different assortments, and can be purchased at the grocery store, a bird specialty store, or pet store. You have the option to get seed bags with "no-waste," which means that there aren't waste materials in them. Sunflower seeds may sprout, so be aware of them. Woodpeckers love peanuts and other nuts. Dry bread or crumbs can also be placed outside, just be sure the bread is not moldy.
One note with bird seeds, you may also attract rats and squirrels, so use special bird feeders that are rodent protected.
Here are recipes for your own suet cakes and humming bird nectar:
Hard Peanut Butter Suet Cake Recipe
- 2 cups fresh ground suet (fat, can get from butcher)
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 2 cups yellow corn meal
- 2 cups fine cracked corn
- Melt suet in a saucepan over low heat. Allow it to cool thoroughly; then reheat.
- Add peanut butter, stirring until melted and well blended.
- Add dry ingredients to the suet-peanut-butter blend, and mix well.
- Pour into forms or suet-feeders, and cool until hardened.
Humming Bird Nectar Recipe
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
Bring water to a boil and dissolve sugar in a sauce pan. Let cool until room temperature and pour into hummingbird feeder. Do not add red food coloring; it is known to cause disease in humming birds.
2. Water Source
Birds need water to drink and bathe. Installing a fountain or a birdbath is a great way to quickly attract birds. Be sure that it is flowing water. If it’s not flowing water, like in a birdbath, be sure to change the water daily so the water doesn’t grow fungus.
We’ve actually found a leaky sprinkler in our backyard to be the birds favorite water source. It puddles up and is perfect for bathing.
Birds make their own nests. In early spring you can leave out soft material like twine or pet hair. After we brush our dogs we pull the hair out of the brushes and place on bushes around our home for the birds to gather for their nests.
Making your own bird house is a fun craft that can be done with children. Many craft and home improvement stores have little bird house kits that only cost a few dollars. When you hang them but sure to hang them high in the tree at least 7-8 feet high, away from predators like cats or dogs. WARNING: As you begin to attract more birds, you may see Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Common Grosbeaks and Coopers Hawks.
Want to know my favorite bird we’ve attracted to our yard? The Lazuli Bunting. The azure blue always surprises me when I see the Lazuli Bunting on our platform feeder.
But be warned, gathering backyard birds means you will also attract predators. These predators are often the most amazing to watch, due to their size and precision hunting skills. Kestrels, hawks, and owls are all hunters.
WATCHING FOR BIRDS
You’ll want to keep a pair of binoculars in your kitchen for viewing birds during the day, that way you won’t need to rummage for them and miss a special species of bird.
INVOLVING CHILDREN IN BIRD WATCHING
Getting an inexpensive pair of binoculars is a great way to get kids involved in birding. You can also create bird bingo or a bird scavenger hunt to make it fun for the kids.
Walk around the backyard flapping your "wings" and pretend to be a bird. On a blanket, roll up in a ball and pretend to be an egg and “hatch.” Make “cheep cheep” sounds and pretend to be birds. If you’re in my backyard, I’ll do different bird impressions for you, but only in our backyard (and if you’re lucky at evo, I will give you my Turkey wabble or best Morning Dove impression).
For older kids create a quiz of the 50 State Birds.
BIRD BOOKS & RESOURCES
- Backyard Birds
- Birds of Utah Field Guide
- National Geographic Bird Guide
Believe it or not, about three years ago, my husband was able to get a wild bird to go to his hand. I may not be the Bird Whisperer, but I think we’ve done pretty good job attracting them to our yard.
What are some of your favorite birds?
Let me know if you have any questions or feedback!
Featured image courtesy of Flickr.
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