John Sterling Poole
What You Can Do For Your Birds
We all know that we can talk all day about bird foods, feeders, and houses, but if you only focus on those things, you will find your yard lacking certain aspects that are great for your birds. This is going to review a lot of tips on how to make your yard much more attractive to all species of birds.
Spring (or should I say pollen?) is in the air, and everyone always takes some time to improve their yard. People are looking for what looks nice or what matches the paint of their house. However, if you were to consider what plants are best for your birds, you might be surprised at the number of flocks you will find in your yard.
To simplify everything that I am about to write, you really only need to follow this basic rule: plant natural plants. It seems like a no-brainer that natural plants are what are most appealing to birds of the area, but sometimes we can forget what is a local plant and what is not. Now, I am not a veteran gardener nor am I a botanist, but there are resources out there to guide me in my selection of plants. The best is this website which will ask you to enter your Zip Code. After that, it provides you an in-depth list of all locals shrubs, grasses, flowers, bushes, and trees. I would strongly recommend consulting this website before buying some plants, and you will be surprised in how many choices you actually have for native plants. The last point about the importance of native plants is that these plants also bring in native bugs. Tons of birds eat insects, and so you are providing them with a natural diet.
Plants that are familiar to the birds make them more comfortable in your yard, but you can do even more than just planting native species! Below are some easy tips that everyone should follow in order to prepare their yard for their birds!
Fight Invasive Plant Species. Invasive species can ruin an ecosystem at a stunning speed, and guess what? Your backyard is an ecosystem. By combatting those invasive plants, you are helping preserve the native plant populations which will in turn encourage more bird activity. Weed your yard as often as you can too because weeds can also affect native plant populations.
Bird-Proof Your Windows. Something that breaks my heart is hearing a customer's horror story over a bird incessantly ramming itself into a window at their home. There are estimates of over 1 billion (1,000,000,000) birds dying every year from this. Birds, especially territorial birds, do this for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes they see their reflections and think it is another bird. They fly towards that bird (the reflection) in order to scare it away and end up hitting the window. Other times, birds can think that a window is actually a much bigger open space. Whatever the reason, there is an easy solution to this. The cheapest option (and the least effective and grossest) is to stop cleaning your windows. This can disrupt reflections and lower the amount of impacts against them. The other, more effective option is purchasing some deflectors. These are usually stickers that are transparent to us (you usually only notice the outline of the design), but they stick out to birds by emitting UV light towards them. These are incredibly effective at stopping the birds.
Provide Water. Birds need water. It is as simple as that. Offering water will yield a big boost in activity in your yard. Running water seems to attract them more (not to mention that you don't have to worry about bugs in moving water)!
Don't Clean Up Yard. I know that seems to go against natural instinct, but having a lot of brush and dead leaves in your yard is actually great for the birds! Brush provides cover and comfort for birds. Dead leaves can be incorporated into nests for some birds, but also leaves feed insects. The more insects your yard has, the more food for your birds. You should designate one area, not too far from your feeders, for brush. Lastly, people will rake their yards and dispose of brush, but what they do not realize is that there is a lot of food within those "waste" piles. Seeds come in all shapes and sizes.
Stop Using Pesticides. As I have been saying over and over again, insects are a natural food for birds, and insects provide excellent amounts of protein, fat, and vitamins for your birds. Pesticides kill those insects (and in some cases, can kill your birds!). By killing those insects, you are limiting the natural food of your birds. In some cases, depending on the pesticide, a bird can eat a deceased insect and then be killed by the same pesticide. The best pesticides are natural ones. What are the two best natural pesticides: birds and bats. If you provide a sanctuary that is ideal for your birds, they can take care of your bug problem no problem.
Help Monitor Populations. Despite the Great Backyard Birdcount being over for this year, you can still help monitor populations! Check out this post for more info on how you can help ornithologists!
Keep an eye on your pets. This may seem like a joke, but cats are responsible for the deaths of over 2.6 billion birds every year! Dogs sometime bother birds as well. Please consider keeping your animals indoors more often or monitoring them whenever they are outside. If you can train a dog to sit, lay down, and roll over, you can train a dog to not catch birds in its mouth.
Those are the things you can do to benefit your yard in particular. However, we must realize that there are some worldwide issues that are drastically affecting wildlife.
Plastic is destroying a lot of ecosystems and is devastating wildlife populations. We all have seen the videos of sea turtles struggling with straws or dolphins wrapped in nets, but we do not often hear about birds being affected. Let me tell you now, they are. Lowering fish populations obviously affects shorebird feeding habits, but plastics also send ripple effects throughout ecosystems. To do your part, please make a vow to use as little plastic as possible to help not only your birds but wildlife in general. Also, spread awareness! Some people may not know the perils of plastic on our world.
Another impact on bird populations is deforestation. How can you combat that? Shop wisely. Cornell Lab provides an excellent example of how you can shop wisely:
Three-quarters of the world’s coffee farms grow their plants in the sun...destroying forests that birds and other wildlife need for food and shelter...On the other hand, shade-grown coffee preserves a forest canopy that helps migratory birds survive the winter.--Cornell Lab of Ornithology (click here for more!)
By shopping smarter, you can counteract a lot of the factors affecting your birds and our world's wildlife.
Hopefully now you feel a little more equipped to offer your birds the best yard in the neighborhood! Doing any/all of the suggestions I provided in this post will certainly have a positive impact on the ecosystem at your home!
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