Happy New Year! Start 2013 by resolving to improve your backyard birding with one or more of these tips:
1. Add one new type of feeder - One great way to increase bird diversity in your backyard is to increase the variety of food types you offer, and the way you offer them. Some ground feeding birds won’t visit a hanging seed feeder. Others prefer fruit or insects. Add one of the following to your yard in 2013:
- Suet feeder (woodpeckers especially love these)
- Platform feeder (good for birds like cardinals that prefer ground feeding)
- Fruit feeder (for birds like orioles, tanagers, and grosbeaks – get a complete list here)
- Sugar water feeder (hummingbirds, orioles, and even butterflies)
- Mealworm feeder (this is the best way to bring bluebirds to your yard)
2. Plant for birds - Birds do not live by feeders alone. Many birds prefer to eat seeds and berries straight from the source. Plant sunflowers, thistle, millet, and coneflowers to thrill seed-eating finches. Berry lovers like Cedar Waxwings are almost never seen at feeders, but will flock to a yard with berry bushes in the winter. Hummingbirds like sugar water feeders, but will also happily visit hosta flowers and honeysuckle. Learn more about great plants for birds at the Birds & Blooms website.
3. Provide shelter and nesting opportunities – The best backyard birding I’ve experienced comes when the yard includes nice tall trees and plenty of sheltering bushes. If you can, plant a tree or two in 2013 – pines work well almost everywhere and grow quickly. If trees just aren’t a possibility, provide shelter and nesting opportunities with nesting boxes (check out these DIY plans from Birds & Blooms) and nesting material (get ideas here). Quick tip – many people have been reporting success with special “hummingbird perches” like this one, where territorial hummingbirds can sit and watch over their food sources. These provide neat photo opportunities of hummingbirds at rest.
4. Learn to recognize songs – For every bird you see, there are certainly many others close by too shy to make themselves known. Learn to recognize their songs and then grab your binoculars to seek them out in the trees nearby. Try this article, How to Learn Bird Songs from BirdJam, to get started.
5. Keep a bird journal - Take your armchair birding a step further by jotting notes and sketches in a book you keep handy at all times. Even if you’re not much of an artist, you can sketch the outline or a bill or tail, or make notes on the coloration you see. Add memos about the behavior, the interaction with other birds, and what time of day you make your sightings. Every few months, you can review your findings and refine the feeder offerings in your yard based on what seems to be most successful. Not sure how to get started with a bird journal? Try this great detailed article for tips and ideas.
What resolutions do you suggest for better backyard bird watching? Share your ideas in the comments section below!