One of my daughter’s favourite things to do is to watch birds in our yard. We are lucky, we have seen grosbeaks, waxwings, finches, robins, chickadees – and I think we even have a nest of wee little flycatchers in the tree right outside the kids’ bedroom window that is currently full of cheeping little babies! We will sit outside with our binoculars and try to identify the different species that come to visit, Eliza (who is 6) describes them and we try to find them together in our identification book. When we’re done, we often look them up on the internet to learn about where they live, and what they eat. It’s a fun activity for us – it’s relaxing to birdwatch, and Eliza gets to learn all kinds of things about nature, too.
Here are some tips for attracting a variety of birds to your yard.
- Hang a birdfeeder. You can buy some really great ones, or make one yourself. It can be as simple as an open pan of bird seed, or you can make one out of an old milk jug or pop bottle. You can also make them out of peanut butter and toilet paper tubes! Also make sure that you hang your feeders somewhere with space around so birds can escape from predators. If squirrels or raccoons are an issue in your area, look up tips for pest-proofing your feeders as well. A tip: once you hang a feeder, make sure you keep it well-stocked. The birds will come to rely on it as a source of food, and you’ll find them flocking to it year-round.
- Provide shelter. You can build or buy birdhouses ranging from the basic wood style to super fancy. Birds will also take shelter in trees and shrubs, so a variety of these kinds of plants in your garden will give them somewhere to perch, and possibly even somewhere to nest. And let me tell you, there is not much cuter than baby birds learning to hunt and fly in your back yard. For years we have watched families of robins with their speckle-chested babies in our grass and shrubs, and we love them. A tip: birds don’t know the difference between a household vent and a suitable home. To keep your vents nest-free, ensure you install a reasonably small wire mesh, or a plastic cover. The standard builder-installed vent flaps are not enough, small birds like finches and chickadees can squeeze in. I know this from experience!
- Give them water. A birdbath is a valuable addition to any bird-lover’s back yard. Something shallow with sloped sides is all you need, but you can make it a decorative garden piece, too. A tip: it’s better to have a birdbath that dries out every day or so than one that is always full. Standing water gets pretty gross over time, and mosquitoes will breed in it as well. If it doesn’t dry out, change the water often.
If you give the birds what they need, soon enough they’ll see your yard as a safe place to visit. You’ll see migratory birds passing through on their routes to their summer or winter homes, and you may even be lucky enough to have a family set up their nest in your yard, too. Invest in a good identification book and a pair of binoculars, and you’re set!