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Attracting, Feeding and Appreciating Backyard Birds: A Hobby for All Seasons


By John Schaust

Most people consider bird feeding a winter hobby. In fact, it is a wonderful way to enhance your outdoor lifestyle, regardless of the time of the year. With the stylish bird feeding accoutrements, water features and landscaping elements available to modern homeowners, it’s not just the colourful birds that will bring life and excitement to your backyard. In fact, feeding birds year-round brings great rewards for both you and your visiting feathered friends.

Spring is a critical season for wild birds. Resident birds have endured the cold temperatures and limited food supplies of winter, and recently arrived migrants have expended large amounts of energy during their northward journey. Unfortunately, the majority of birds’ natural food sources will still be scarce until much later in the growing season. Many backyard birds utilize bird feeders to help them survive the extended periods of cold and damp weather that occur every spring.

Studies have also shown that birds with access to feeders during the nesting season spend less time away from their nests looking for food. They will lay their eggs earlier and successfully raise, on average, one more chick per nesting attempt than those without access to feeders.

Summer is actually the most heavily bird populated season in most of North America, and contrary to popular belief, recent research shows summer to be the most abundant season for birds to visit feeders. Summer bird feeding will bring a wealth of new birds to your yard, with interesting behaviours for you to observe and enjoy.

This large cast of avian characters at your feeders will be dressed in their finest breeding plumage and will often be accompanied by their youngsters. This provides a fascinating opportunity to see the parents feeding and interacting with their young, which is a show not to be missed.

Creating a Backyard Haven

Creating a backyard haven for wild birds is easy when you understand the type of habitat that fulfils their basic needs. While the average backyard is visited regularly by 15 to 20 different bird species, a bird-friendly yard with the proper habitat elements can attract up to 60

or more species. To attract the greatest number of bird species, simply provide at least one of each of these habitat elements: food, water, cover and places to raise their young.

When placing a bird feeder in your yard, remember most birds find their food by sight. As such, it’s important to place feeders in an area that’s easily seen, sheltered from the wind and safely away from cats and other predators. Feeders with different seeds or seed blends can be placed throughout the yard at different levels to attract different types of birds.

Birds tend to choose feeders that are at the same height at which they would find food in the wild. For instance, if a bird normally finds its food in trees, bushes or tall flowers, it would be more likely to visit an elevated feeder. This is true for birds like chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and woodpeckers.

Conversely, birds such as quails, doves, sparrows, towhees and juncos find most of their food near or on the ground, so they have no problem eating at a ground feeder. Some birds, such as cardinals, jays and grosbeaks find food at various levels and will visit feeders placed at any elevation.

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