How do you attract backyard birds?

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Answered by: Melissa, An Expert in the Birding in your Backyard Category
There's no question the daily slog of urban life can get drab and routine. From miles of smog producing traffic to beige, cookie-cutter housing developments, urban living can sometimes make you forget you're, well, alive. Backyard bird watching can change that. Inviting a little wildlife into your day can lift your spirits and remind you there's more to life than traffic and work. But how do you attract backyard birds? It's simple, just remember that all wildlife has three basic requirements: water, food, and shelter.

Supplying backyard birds with water is as simple as letting your hose faucet drip and puddle. Although, if the faucet is too near your house or a high traffic area, birds may be too nervous to use it. In that case, consider installing a birdbath. Either a shallow dish or more traditional pedestal bath placed in a shaded, secluded spot in your yard will work just fine .

Different birds like different foods, so it doesn't hurt to research the common birds in your area. Blue jays, for example, love peanuts, while finches prefer thistle seed and sunflower seed. Your local hardware store or lawn and garden store will likely have a blend adequate for a wide array of wild birds. There are several different kinds of feeders, and which one you choose will probably depend on your yard and the birds you'd like to attract. Try to keep feeders in a secluded spot in your yard, and hang them out of reach of cats. A simple bowl on the ground will work just fine if you know you don't have cats to worry about, but it may attract squirrels. Squirrels and birds tend to coexist with no problems as long as there is enough food for everyone, but squirrels can cary diseases, like rabies, so exercise caution.

Don't forget about humming birds. Their acrobatic and colorful flights are entrancing to watch and they're probably more common in your area than you think. Buy a feeder that is guaranteed not to leak, as leaking sugar water can attract large numbers of bees. Hang it in a highly visible spot, and keep the sugar water fresh. To make sugar water, boil four cups of water for every one cup of sugar, mix, stir, and cool before adding it to your feeder. Hummingbirds are not shy, so hanging a feeder on your back porch won't bother them. You may even see them peeking in your windows or feel them whooshing past you when you're outside.

Just as different birds like different foods, they require different shelter, too. Placing various birdhouses around your property can help attract smaller birds and keep them coming back. Trees, shrubs, and even tall grasses will help attract small nesting birds as well. Big birds, like jays, magpies, and crows tend to nest near the tops of mature trees. Researching the birds in your area will help you determine what types of birdhouses and flora will be best.

Once you attract backyard birds, you'll find that watching them is as fascinating as it is relaxing. Identifying new birds in your yard, rather than stressing about a hard day at work, will become your new past time. And you'll benefit the birds as much as they benefit you. Climate change threatens many wild populations, and backyard habitats can be crucial for their continued survival. So invite the birds to your backyard, and uplift your life.

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