by guest blogger Toni Becker, member of the Rodale’s editorial team
If you’re looking to soak up the sun and enjoy nature, you don’t have to go far. You can turn your backyard into a local bird hangout, even if you don’t have much space.
Not only is bird watching a fun solo or family activity, but also, in fact, birds need our help! According to BirdLife International, as of 2014, as many as 1,373 bird species are threatened with extinction globally because of their small and declining populations or ranges.
Give your local birds a helping hand with these 6 tips for creating a backyard bird habitat:
- Give them cover. Provide your feathered friends with a break from the summer sun by hanging a birdhouse or perch in your yard. If you don’t have much room, this copper spiral feeder is stylish, functional, and compact. Different species have different preferences, so if you’d like to attract a particular type of bird, do some research into what that species likes and put it on the menu.
- Add refreshment. A water feature, whether it’s a pond, fountain, or birdbath, is a must-have for hosting birds. It gives them a reliable, accessible spot to quench their thirst, and gives you the perfect place for bird watching and photo opportunities. Short on space? This Cuban birdbath is an ideal space-saving watering hole.
- Go native. One of the best things you can do for local birds is to plant native plants, shrubs, and vines in your yard. Not only will plants like sunflowers and purple coneflowers provide delicious seeds for birds to munch, but a native plant like milkweed will attract lots of insects, a critical part of any bird’s diet, as well. Look up plants native to your region or talk to a local nursery about other bird-friendly plants that will thrive in your yard. Don’t have much room? Plant seeds in containers and space them around the yard.
- Serve lunch. Adding birdseed, suet, or homemade mixes to a feeder or hanging pinecones or birdseed ornaments around bushes or trees is a surefire way to attract a variety of birds. Simply put a piece of fruit on a spear bird feeder for healthy and delicious snacking for bluebirds, warblers, and other fruit lovers. To invite hummingbirds to stop in, fill a hummingbird feeder with nectar.
- Brush up. Laying out a strategically placed brush or woodpile serves two purposes: shelter and food. It can be great protection from predators and the elements, and it’ll attract lots of insects, which the birds will happily gulp down. Be careful to keep these piles a good distance away from your home, though, to guard against human and pet encounters with pesky insects like ticks.
- Offer protection. A bird’s life isn’t easy. To help feathered friends enjoy their food, water, and shelter without fear, keep your yard cat free. This might mean keeping pets indoors, adding a fence or barrier against neighbor cats or wild cats, or making a lot of noise when a kitty comes calling. To protect against large predatory birds like hawks, place feeders under a covering but still within plain view, so backyard birds can keep track of predators’ surroundings.
Once you have these steps in place, all you need is a bird guide and a tall glass of lemonade!
Toni Becker is a part-time content creator at Rodale’s. She is also the personal chef, event planner, chauffeur, and best of all playmate to her young daughter. Her family of three lives in the woods where she finds time to write, cook anything she can from scratch, garden, and build her case of why she needs goats.