Bird watching is a fun and educational activity. Attract different birds to your backyard with feeders and birdbaths.
To start feeding birds, get more than one type of feeder. Feeders that have a bulk area for seed and an area for more than one bird to eat are a good start, as birds are very social. Use a general wild bird seed. Some of the tube feeders have different size feed holes for smaller seeds such as thistle and black oil. Song birds will be attracted by these. There is also a small mesh bag for thistle that the birds can cling to. Each bag can easily accommodate seven or more birds. By using more than one type of bird seed in the feeders, the variety of birds will increase.
Once you have your feeders, you need to hang some of them. Use your yard trees, shepherd's hooks, fences, porch railings, and a flat pan on the ground. Hanging feeders need to be placed where you can reach them - about 5 feet or 6 feet off the ground. You can also use an outdoor table as a feeder. Just spread out raisins, nuts, berries, grapes, slices of fruit, and some cracked sunflower seed. If you have an outdoor animal, it is best to use a hanging open platform feeder to keep the birds above the animal's reach.
Water is also a big draw to birds. Pedestal bird baths can accommodate the drinkers and the bathers. You can buy two-piece pedestal baths that make for easy handling. Also, some stores will sell the bowls separately. You can use the bowl on the ground like a small pond. Put a small rock in the center for the birds to perch on. More than one birdbath should be used. As with feeders, have them in different areas so that feeders and birdbaths are not bunched together. Consider growing ground cover in the yard so that birds have a place to fly into for protection.
Bird baths do need to be kept clean. A long-handled soft pot scrubber brush is good for cleaning the bath. Mix a small amount of bleach with water in a sprinkling can, pour into the bath, and brush clean. This will get all mold out. Be sure and rinse well after cleaning and fill with fresh water. Baths with more than one level and a recirculating pump will attract many birds.
Since birds migrate, you probably won't see the same bird species year-round. This is where a bird identification book for your area will hep. When it comes to "little brown birds," there are a bunch! Then, there is always a "holy cow-what is that?" reaction. You don't need a high-priced cover-everything bird book. The average person will get along fine with a general identification book or pocket guide.
Sometimes a basic pair of binoculars will help you in identifying who is at the feeders. They can be a low-priced pair from a general store sporting department.
As you begin to attract more and more back yard "friends," you'll find that birdwatching is indeed a relaxing and fun activity.
-by S.J. Bible
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