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attention spans
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ends of the earth
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own backyard
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Backyard Birding
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Backyard Birding

Birding Definition

For some, "Birding" means trudging through forests and swamps to find rare species and tallying a huge list of birds they have seen. To me, birding is the act of enjoying birds. One can do that from the comfort of their own backyard. Will you get huge lists of birds? No. Will you enjoy the birds you do attract? Yes. For many, the idea of going to ends of the earth to spot a bird is unappealing but they should not feel any less passionate about what they enjoy. In this article, I will be discussing backyard birding and how you can enjoy our tiny avian friends from the comfort of your own backyard.

Why Do It?

If you are not going to enjoy watching a limited number of birds then by all means, don't do it. If gallivanting through the forests is your thing, do it. I have and still do. The issue is that its not always possible for individuals to do this for various reasons. Therefore, having an outlet in your own backyard allows them to enjoy the birds that frequent there.

For example, nice wooded areas are not readily available in areas of urban sprawl. Sure, they can drive a couple hours through traffic to get to a location, but what if they do not have access to that sort of transportation. They can easily set up a feeding station or plant a hummingbird attracting plant that might coax some Ruby Throats to hang out during migrations. The elderly and those with physical disabilities are not readily able to go deep in the forests to spot birds. They can easily have a feeding station in their backyard or just outside a front window to enjoy the birds they attract. Couples with young children cannot easily truck them out to the woods to go birding, Their attention spans are short and carrying them through the woods just is not appealing. Sitting on their patio and helping them learn to spot a bird or two is.

How

Coaxing birds to your backyard is relatively easy. A simple feeding station and the right seed is really all you need. If you are looking to attract specific types of birds, you will want to research what types of feed brings them in. For example, if you are looking to attract bluejays, you may consider a simple hanging tray with whole peanuts still in their shell. Bluejays love whole peanuts. My children and I have spent long hours marveling as they try to stuff as many peanuts in their beaks at one time. I have seen them get 4 in there! It is a hoot the way they arrange them before picking them up with precision. Baltimore Orioles you will want a special feeding station that allows you to place orange halves and cups of grape jelly. While Bluebirds will want a special diet of mealworms. Woodpeckers will desire pecking on a suet cake placed in a specially made basket. So do your research ...determine the species you want to attract and get the proper feeder / feed.

Most may not care what species they attract. For them, a good hopper feeder will work just fine with Black Oil Sunflower Seed ( BOSS). Boss attracts a wide variety of birds that will thankfully accept your offering. A more costly alternative is pre-shelled BOSS.....meaning they are just the seeds, and not the shells. This reduces mess of all the shells on the ground and ultimately provides you more of the actual food per pound than the BOSS with the shells. Please avoid buying the seed mix you see at almost every grocery store. You will see the birds flicking the undesrable bits out of the feeder and going straight for the sunflower seeds. It may be cheap per bag, but the birds will consume far less of that bag. The feeders will empty very quickly.

Placement of the feeder is critical. You will want to make sure it is off the ground high enough to keep birds safe from cats. Cats will stalk a feeder all day to get a treat. Be mindful that cats can leap awfully high. Place close to cover. If birds can get to a tree or shrub close by they will feel much more comfortable visiting your feeder, plus birds that happen to land in those areas are more likely to find your feeder. Place where you can easily view it but not too close to spook the birds if you are outside. If you place the feeder close to windows, be sure to apply decorative window clings to large clear windows. If not the increased bird traffic may lead to more deaths. A flock of birds spooked by an overflying hawk or child may scatter and fly right into your windows potentially killing them. Placing some window clings will help reduce that chance as they will see something in their path and avoid it.

Cleaning

Birds can be a bit dirty. Inevitably you will have bird droppings all over your feeders. Please clean them monthly. Avoid heavy detergents that could leave a residue inside long feeder tubes or get absorbed into the wood of some feeders. Hot water and some elbow grease works just fine.

Planting

There is a big movement in the birding community to plant a garden that attracts birds. There are many flowering bushes that attract hummingbirds. Planting berry patches that will readily bring birds in to snack on the tasty treats. Sunflowers produce natural BOSS at the end of the growing season. Millet will bring in goldfinches. The list goes on and on. there are entire books and websites on this one subject.

Tools of the Trade

I highly suggest three things to new birders. 1. A good reference book to help you identify species. Most of your specialty wild bird stores like Wild Birds Unlimited have larger reference books encompassing most species in North America, but they also have books that focus on birds in the local area. 2. A good set of binoculars to bring you up close. It just heightens the enjoyment to be able to zoom in and see specific color patterns. Sometimes identifying similar species is tough when viewing with the naked eye. 3. Last but not least is a good online resource. They not only provide pictures of birds but they also provide a search function that filters out the birds those birds that could no way be misconstrued with the details you were able to pick up on. They also have sound files of their calls to help you start to learn to identify birds by ear.

Get Out There and Enjoy Them

I hope this article provided some basic information on how you can enjoy birds from your own backyard. We have discussed why this should not be overlooked and how to do it...now it's time to enjoy them. Grab a cold beverage.....a good book....your binoculars and get outside. they will be waiting for you.


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