Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Four Free Ways To Help Wild Birds

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag…?
Yesterday, January 5, was National Bird Day here in the U.S. I have three bird feeders in the back yard, and one of them holds both seed and suet. Another one is for safflower seed, and then I have a tube feeder for thistle seed. Bird feeders are so important in the winter and when the ground is snowy. Birds keep warm by burning calories, just as we do. The ready supply of seed helps see them through.  Then in spring the birds are spending their energy on mating, nesting, and producing eggs. 





There is a downside to feeding the birds
Feeding the birds can be a lot more expensive than "tuppence a bag"! The cost of safflower seed especially adds up, but the cheaper millet mixes will go mostly to squirrels and mourning doves.  The feeders themselves can be an investment too, especially if you need squirrel baffles and sturdy poles.


There ARE ways to help the birds that don't break the budget... 

You can spend nothing but a bit of time and still have a yard the birds will, ahem,  flock to.  The birds will reward your effort with their endearing antics, beauty, and songs. Here are some ideas for ways to encourage more wild birds to visit your yard without spending money.

1. Create a nest material station. The container can be the bottom of a wide plastic deli box or a mesh bag.  Attach it to a fence, deck, or tree trunk.  Keep it stocked with cotton batting, dog hair from brushing (if you don't use flea products),  moss, pine needles, and small twigs from the yard. Young children participate by cutting pieces of scrap cloth (1x6 inch strips) or yarn and string (4-8 inches long) and adding them to the nest material station.  Many birds will use soft material to line the inner surface of their nests. 
Click here to learn more!

2. Designate a small corner of the yard or garden for a mud puddle. Just keep it wet with the garden hose. Robins in particular use mud when building their nests. We watched one pair build their nest under our pergola several consecutive years. When we saw mud in the nest we knew the turquoise eggs were about to appear. A mud puddle will attract many birds in hot weather when they need a drink. This kind of birdwatching has a name - puddle birding!
Click here to learn more!


3. Provide a bird bath. You may have seen pricey ones in the garden shops, and I have two of those, but they actually aren't ideal.   Any shallow pan will do. A pie plate, a trash can lid, a saucer-type snow sled…just place on the ground, fill with water, and clean it occasionally. You get a gold star for putting your bird bath in the shade and arranging a few rocks or small branches to provide a perch for birds who just want a drink, not a bath. IMPORTANT: if cats roam your yard, disregard this idea. Birds are vulnerable while bathing. Cats kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds a year, according to the Washington Post.
Click here to learn more! 

4. Neglect your yard. I'm not recommending neglect that will have the city will putting a notice on your door or make the neighbors stop waving.  Just the benign kind of neglect. Could your live Christmas tree sit in the back yard until summer now that it's dropping needles? Leaves can stay in the flowerbeds for now, encouraging the presence of insects and worms, a.k.a. bird food. Last summer's flowers don't have to be deadheaded for months. (I leave the dried-up coneflowers out until late spring; goldfinches love the seeds). If there's an out-of-the way spot for a brush pile, it can provide birds with an escape hatch when predators approach.  This kind of shelter can be sorely lacking in urban areas and suburbs. 
Click here to learn more. And here - birdscaping your yard article.
Photo Credit: wild.enature.com

If you know of other free ways to help the birds, please leave your ideas in the comments. Happy birdwatching, and thanks for helping the songbirds survive.






7 comments:

  1. What great ideas!! I never would have thought to have a "nest material station"...very awesome!

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  2. this is why Mom throws our hair outside when she brushes us - the birds love to use it as nesting material and it really helps keep them warm over winter. We have nest boxes on every post of our fence and feeding stations in all the trees. The bird food is expensive but so worth it to see the birds on a sunny day

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  3. We luffs feeding the birdies and like Reilly's Mom we do the hairbrush thingy as well.
    Loves and licky kisses
    Princess Leah xxx

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  4. WE love watching Birds... our mom saves all the FUZZ from the Dryer Lint Screen... and in the spring she DECORATES all the trees and bushes with it... the birds LOVE It... and when she brushes us... that all goes outside fur floating around our hill... The Birds will Chase it... which is really funny.

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  5. Well, that seems like great ideas......however here, the only birds we gots are Black Birds, and all they do is dive bomb us....till we catch one!

    The Mad Scots

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  6. Now Mom has a use for our hair.

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  7. Great ideas! I love when I find my dogs' fur in a bird's nest. I like the idea of a place to put out nesting material.

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