Eye On Nature

Bird-Friendly Backyards

Would you like to attract more birds to your backyard?
Here are some tips to get you started, selected for MetroKids by Steve Kress, the Audubon Society’s vice president for bird conservation and author of The Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Songbirds (Cornell University Press, $24.95).

Create a songbird habitat.
Plant a clump of native, bird-friendly shrubs. Include a berry shrub such as a dogwood, holly or hawthorn tree and a shrub for cover and nesting such as a tall juniper. Plant a border of beebalm to attract hummingbirds.

Keep your cat indoors for the safety of both the birds and your cat. The 100 million U.S. pet and stray cats kill hundreds of millions of birds each year, especially in the spring when young songbirds are fledging, often on or near the ground. Cats themselves are safer from collisions with cars, predators, diseases, and parasites when kept indoors.

Use tube bird feeders kept clean with a bottle brush and a 10 percent non-chlorine bleach solution. Rinse thoroughly and dry in the sun before refilling. Rake up soggy seed, which could grow deadly mold, from under feeders. Move feeders within three feet of a window. At such a close distance, birds are less likely to gather lethal momentum and strike the window when startled.

Build a brush pile in a corner of your property. Each time a storm drops limbs and branches, heap them up. Songbirds will find shelter from extreme weather in such cover throughout the year. In the fall, rake leaves under shrubs to create mulch and feeding areas for ground-feeding birds. Earthworms, pill bugs, insects and spiders will thrive in the mulch, and will in turn be eaten by many songbirds. In general, overly tidy gardeners are poor bird gardeners!

To learn more about creating a bird-friendly backyard, visit http://audubonathome.org/birdstohelp