Inviting Birds to Your Backyard

Photo Group

Since purchasing the store in March, I have frequently been asked about the basics of setting up a bird feeding station.  It really isn’t very complicated. To attract the greatest variety of birds to your backyard remember the needs of all living things – food, water & shelter.

 Water

The most important and most often overlooked element in creating great backyard habitat is water. Between the frozen periods of winter and extended dry periods of summer, clean unfrozen water can be quite hard to find. Do yourself and the birds a favor, invest in a water source of some type. From a decorative bird bath to an elaborate water garden they will provide water for nourishment and feather maintenance that is so important.

 Food

You can provide food for birds in many different ways.

The first and simplest way is by not using pesticides in your lawn and landscaping. Birds are natural exterminators and rely on insects as food for much of the year. Birds such as wrens, bluebirds, orioles, and robins eat insects more than any other type of food.

Good landscaping will provide natural food for birds at all times of the year. You may be lucky enough to have great trees in your yard that produce foods for birds (oaks, hickories, cherries, etc.). Waiting 25 years for an oak tree to start producing acorns for can be frustrating but you can landscape with native shrubs and wildflowers. There are many books commercially available and the Missouri Department of Conservation has free information on choosing the right plants for our area (www.grownative.org or call (816)759-7300).

Bird feeders are the best way to provide food for birds while bringing them in closer for your viewing pleasure. You can get as complicated as you would like but the most important thing to remember is that different birds not only like different kinds of food but they have preferred feeding styles as well. The most successful feeder stations utilize those seed preferences (see page 2) and present them in various ways (the ground, platform feeders, tube feeders, etc.).

 Shelter

Again, the biggest part of providing shelter is determined by the yard that you have. The simplest thing to remember is that most birds needs some type of vegetation cover for nesting and handling harsh weather.

The first thing that comes to mind is a nest box. While a limited number of birds actually nest in boxes, a couple of our real favorites can be attracted to your yard with the right box. Nest boxes vary in size, shape and how they should be mounted. For example, Bluebirds need a 1.5 inch entrance hole and want their houses mounted firmly while wrens don’t mind if their houses swing freely and only require a 1 inch entrance trance hole.

Areas of thicker vegetation such as brush piles or shrubby vegetation make great escape cover for birds being pursued by predators. Feeders and bird baths placed close to dense cover are often used more than those that require a long flight across open space.

Birds and other wildlife can bring hours and hours of enjoyment into our lives. To maximize your enjoyment and the benefit to our wild friends, remember the simple rules of survival – food, water & shelter.

By Mark McKellar

FALL 2002