If you haven’t heard by now, let me be the first to share with you an idea for outdoor fun with the kids this weekend: Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). It starts Fri., Feb. 15 and runs through Mon., Feb. 18, 2013.
I’ll be talking more specifics about the GBBC later this week. But for today, I want to focus on a few ways you can invite birds to your yard. After all, backyard bird watching is a lot more interesting when the birds actually come to visit!
1. Provide food.
Offering bird feeders is especially important when winter weather makes food hard to find. You’ll need to do a little research to find out what types of birds are common in your area so you can offer the right types of food.
Then decide whether you want to buy a feeder or make your own. Homemade options such as a pinecone birdfeeder or birdseed ornaments are especially fun for kids to make. In either case, hang your feeder somewhere close enough for you and the kids to view easily from a window.
2. Provide shelter.
Birdhouses are another fun DIY project for kids. Birdhouses can provide nesting and roosting spots for the birds in your yard and are busiest come spring and summer.
As with bird feeders, you’ll need to know a little about your local birds to decide which type of birdhouse will work best. And when it comes to placement, keep your birdhouse away from any bird feeders you might have; too much activity around a feeder may discourage birds from using the shelter to nest.
3. Offer nesting materials.
Spring is the best time to invite birds to your yard with nesting materials. It can be as simple as stuffing a mesh bag with twigs or sticks, dead leaves, yarn or string, human hair or pet fur, shredded paper, mud and anything a bird can use to make a nest. Then hang it somewhere visible.
4. Provide water.
While a fountain or pond will certainly attract more birds to your yard, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Place a shallow dish a little above ground level and you’ve made a bird bath! Make sure the water is no more than an inch deep. And change the water weekly.
Keep in mind that birds need water every season – even when it’s freezing outside. If possible, add a heater to your bird bath. Or keep a ping-pong or tennis ball floating in the bath; the balls’ motion will help break up the ice as it forms.
5. Plant natives.
While adding bird feeders is one way to provide food for birds, planting native plants, shrubs and trees is even better! Not only will you be inviting birds to your yard, but butterflies, bees and lots of other wildlife as well.
Native landscapes have another added bonus – they help birds and other forms of wildlife feel safe from predators (and kids!). Which increases the chances that they’ll feel comfortable nesting and raising young in your yard.
A few general tips if you want to invite birds to your yard:
- Clean feeders and bird baths regularly to remove old seed and bird waste.
- If you’ve never provided food, water or shelter for backyard birds, it might take them a few days to take notice.
- If you live in the United States, check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to learn more about what birds live in your area.