Backyard Birding

BIRDS IN YOUR BACKYARD

No time to get out into the wilderness to look for birds? You can bring many common species into your own yard by offering the food, water, and shelter they need. It’s not hard to create a habitat for birds that you can enjoy through your own windows. Here’s what you need:

  1. A Clear View. Where can you sit comfortably and look out the window? Place your feeders where you can see them well, to maximize your chances of viewing a variety of birds throughout the seasons.

    Pileated Woodpecker (F) - Webster - © Peggy Mabb - Mar 20, 2017

    Pileated Woodpecker (F) – Webster – © Peggy Mabb – Mar 20, 2017

  2. The Right Field Guide. Dozens of books and apps can provide you with the pictures and descriptions you need to determine what birds visit your yard. Choose a guide that provides information about common birds in your region, to help you narrow down the selection and identify the birds most likely to show up in your area.

    Birding Field Guides LMK

    Birding Field Guides

  3. A Variety of Foods. Different birds eat different things.
    • Seed-eating birds like cardinals, grackles, starlings, sparrows, doves, chickadees, grosbeaks, jays, and finches tend to prefer black-oil sunflower seed, but they also may eat millet, safflower, and other seeds. Goldfinches are partial to nyjer seed, a fine black seed that doesn’t interest most other birds.

      Evening Grosbeak - Penfield - © Don Ross - Jan 26, 2019

      Evening Grosbeak – Penfield – © Don Ross – Jan 26, 2019

    • Suet eaters like woodpeckers, flickers, starlings, some sparrows, nuthatches, and others are comfortable clinging vertically and even upside-down to a feeder to get this high-protein food.

      White-breasted Nuthatch (L) and Downy Woodpecker (R) - Irondequoit - © Candice Giles - Jan 24, 2017

      White-breasted Nuthatch (L) and Downy Woodpecker (R) – Irondequoit – © Candice Giles – Jan 24, 2017

    • Peanut eaters like woodpeckers, nuthatches, sparrows, chickadees, and flickers will hang onto a feeder and pick out bits of nuts.

      Red-breasted Nuthatch - Greece - © Carol Shay - May 03, 2017

      Red-breasted Nuthatch – Greece – © Carol Shay – May 03, 2017

    • Nectar (a solution of four parts water to one part sugar, boiled for ten minutes and cooled) brings in hummingbirds, orioles, and catbirds to feeders with bright red parts (red attracts hummingbirds).

      Baltimore Oriole - Webster - © Peggy Mabb - Aug 16, 2015

      Baltimore Oriole – Webster – © Peggy Mabb – Aug 16, 2015

    • Grape jelly and oranges are special treats for orioles, but catbirds and even some house sparrows will frequent jelly feeders until the larger birds chase them off.

      Gray Catbird - Webster - © Peggy Mabb - May 11, 2016

      Gray Catbird – Webster – © Peggy Mabb – May 11, 2016

    • Live mealworms don’t last long in a feeder, but in the right habitat they will attract bluebirds, thrashers, robins, and wrens.

      Eastern Bluebird - Pittsford - © Mary Ackley - Jul 03, 2016

      Eastern Bluebird – Pittsford – © Mary Ackley – Jul 03, 2016

  4. Moving Water. A birdbath with moving water catches the eyes of many birds that would not ordinarily come to feeders. Insect-eating birds like warblers and vireos may stop at a birdbath for a drink during migration. A bubbling water feature like a recirculating fountain or man-made stream can lure all kinds of birds to drink and bathe in your yard.

    American Robin in drip waterer © Nic Minetor

    American Robin in drip waterer © Nic Minetor

  5. Natural Food Sources. Plant native trees and shrubs that produce berries to attract waxwings, catbirds, robins, and many other fruit-eating birds. Serviceberry, red osier dogwood, winterberry, spicebush, staghorn sumac, cranberrybush, nannyberry, arrowwood, highbush blueberry, and many others will provide birds with shelter as well as ample fruit throughout the summer and well into winter.

    Cedar Waxwing - Durand Eastman Park - © Dick Horsey - Dec 08, 2015

    Cedar Waxwing – Durand Eastman Park – © Dick Horsey – Dec 08, 2015

  6. Shelter. Birds need to be able to retreat from your feeders into the branches of a tree or shrub when a Cooper’s or red-tailed hawk passes over looking for dinner. A wide-open, mowed backyard with no trees will attract fewer birds than a yard filled with trees, shrubs, and a healthy understory of last year’s leaves and piles of twigs. Several local landscapers specialize in creating backyard habitats for birds and small animals, so if you need help deciding how to make this happen in your yard, consult an expert. The birds will thank you by spending season after season with you.

    Blue Jay - Irondequoit - © Eunice Thein - Aug 04, 2016

    Blue Jay – Irondequoit – © Eunice Thein – Aug 04, 2016