Attracting back-yard Birds, gets you friends with benefits.

Seeding, fertilizing, pest and weed control, have you got a list of garden chores ahead of you in the coming year a mile long (and it’s still not even spring yet). If you think work’s “for the birds” well maybe you could make it just that. This year invite some songbirds into the yard and spend more time enjoying your time by getting some “friends with benefits”.

See birds are diligent workers in one way or another and different birds do different things diligently. This can sometimes be used to the gardeners advantage. For instance some birds like to eat bugs, great for a gardener. Here where I live some common bug eating birds that come to feeders are Chickadees, Titmice, Cardinals etc. These guys often roam in groups of mixed species known as “foraging flocks”. Commonly foraging flocks are made up of insectivorous birds. There tends to be a few key “Nuclear” species that are central to the formation and movement of the group. “Attendants” are species that periodically accompany the group or trail behind but not always. One of the nice things about these flocks is the diversity of species leads to a diversity of eating habits. Some birds like Chickadees and Titmice are “gleaners”, they like to hang on the tips of branches and eat bugs like little acrobats. Woodpeckers and nut-hatches climb up and down the trunks of the trees searching the bark for meals while wrens tend to scurry around the ground busily looking for a snack. Flickers will sometimes be seen sitting in the grass eating ants. Cardinals hangout a lot in the branches of shrubs and Towhees will forage in the undergrowth. That’s nearly whole over insect control right there. Keeping hanging feeders with protein rich sunflower seeds will attract most of the gleaning species and some suet is a great for drawing in wrens. So basically just a couple simple feeders and the bugs won’t have anywhere to hide.

Same goes for weed seeds. Basic bird-feeders often bring birds like sparrows and doves that eat seeds off the ground and will help control your weed population though they could just as likely spread a new weed or if your lucky a new wildflower to your yard. In 1859 Darwin in his “The Origin of the Species” claimed to have had sprouted no less than 82 plants from the foot of a Partridge including legumes, monocots, and dicots.

Where do all these bugs and seeds go after they’re eaten? They fall to the ground as droppings adding fertility and nutrients. Bringing in birds brings up the biomass of a space as well as the biodiversity and may even improve the conservation status of some species.

You may never think about it but birds are often one of the signs of the season that allow us to know the time of year without the use of a calender. Aristotle wrote ‘For as one Swallow or one day does not make a spring, so one day or a short time does not make a fortunate or happy man” Swallows, like the Robbin are known to some as ushers of spring but are maybe better known as a great way to control flies in pastures. Like bats of the day they fly around open areas catching flying insects making fortunate and happy horses.

Most people are aware that Hummingbirds help pollinate flowers in their quest for nectar some may have even seen an Oriole at work doing the same. For a couple of years I had Gold Finches that came to the same Red Hot Poker and drank from the flowers.

Some birds like the Gold Finches benefit the garden by adding color and motion, a sense of liveliness to the garden that could bring joy and stress relief to an on-looker. Creating habitats that are beneficial to birds could also create a space more inviting or enjoyable to people possibly increasing a properties value but never the less its appeal. Taking daily walks to check feeders and catch sightings is no doubt good for you and may be the perfect opportunity to spend time with your young children or old parents.

There are things you should “Not” do if your trying to get some of these ever so helpful guys and here’s a few you should know. First, if you hang feeders go for variety. Different types of feeders with different types of seed will attract? You guessed it, different types of birds. Don’t forget birds need water too. Don’t allow your feeders to run out often, the birds will be around less often. Avoid cheap seed, don’t waste your money could be full of fillers the birds will toss to the ground emptying the feeder faster and costing you more in waste. Also avoid old, moldy, poorly stored seed, it’s dangerous to the birds. Don’t feed bread, it’s low in nutrients and though some birds will eat it there’s no nutritional benefit to them from it. If you can’t clean your hummingbird feeders often don’t use them, sugar water goes bad out in the heat. Also don’t make artificial nectar from honey or sweeteners other than sugar. Like bread they lack the nutritional value Hummingbirds need. Lastly don’t forget natural foods, fruit and berry bushes, or seed producing perennials are great for attracting birds and may be less maintenance than a feeder.

This year try passing off some of the work load to some more than willing assistants and see why I’ve come to cherish songbirds as an integral part of a garden community as much as the plants that grow there. Get some “friends with benefits”.

8 thoughts on “Attracting back-yard Birds, gets you friends with benefits.

  1. Wild bird food preferences vary with bird species. While birds like pigeons and doves will readily eat any bird food given to them, more specialist feeders like Robins prefer small grubs such as mealworms. You can buy bird food from various outlets that have large stocks of bird food available in various weights depending on your requirement. Guides to feeding garden birds can be researched online or from various gardening bird books that give details about wild bird feeding habits. The autumn season can attract a large number of wild birds to your garden with the right food including siskins, goldfinches, great tits, blue tits, wrens, woodpeckers and many more. Each one of them has a different feeding habit and accordingly people can make use of different bird feeders and feeding locations within their garden to encourage them. *

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  2. A fun experiment for kids(and adults) is to hang a clothes line between trees or posts for the birds to perch on during the summer. Don’t mow under it and you’ll see all the different plants that grow from the birds’ waste. A cool way to show kids how birds help spread seeds.

  3. We live in the Snowy Mountains of Australia, and we get lots of beautiful birds on our property.
    We get king parrots, crimson rosella parrots, cockatoos (usually the white sulfur crested ones but occassionally black), galahs, magpies, they are so beautiful! They love to spend time up our trees, and on the grass, getting seeds, insects, slugs and snails.
    I want to put out a bird bath for them, but I only like to feed them things that would be found naturally, rather than giving them seed. I was always told that it’s better for their health to forage. We have a compost bin they love to sit on and eat all the slugs it attracts.
    I’m also going to in time plant loads of trees and plants with nectar and seeds they like to feast on. We find the king parrots to be the friendliest of them all; they like to sit up on our verandah and look at us and chirp at us. Lovely.

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  5. great post – I’m always looking for birdy-tips which are easy to digest. I found this site too which offers bite-sized bits of info on which seed to put out to attract certain birds http://www.wildbirdfeeders.co.uk/all-about-birds I agree though – I’ve seen a lot of people say that you should clean up dropped seed etc – but I think its a waste and something will want it!

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