Birds are everywhere, and they are so colorful and fun to watch. You can watch birds all year-round, in your backyard, local park, or walking down the street. Some birds will just be passing through during their spring and fall trips (migration) north and south. Some birds are with us all year-round. You can watch them eat, drink, bathe, sing, build nests, and feed their babies, all in your backyard.
Learn the birds. You can learn to identify the birds that visit your yard. Simple bird guides are available at bird and gardening stores, online and at your library.
Keep a list of all the birds you see in your yard and the dates you first see them each year. Include photos if you can.
Invite them to your yard. Attract birds by providing what they need: cover, food, and water.
Planting for birds: Birds need cover like trees, bushes, and flowers. These plants provide places for birds to sleep, build nests, find food like insects, nuts and berries, take shelter from bad weather, and hide from predators. You can make a map of your yard and then decide where you would like to plant more cover. Plant the tallest trees and bushes farthest away from the windows and the shortest closest to the windows. That way it will be easier for you to see the birds. Examples of plants that provide food for birds include sunflower, dogwood, oak, cardinal flower, pine, walnut, crabapple, blackberry and spicebush.
Feeding the birds: Many types of birds will readily come to a bird feeder, and feeders are easy and fun to make. You can use clean plastic milk bottles, soda bottles, pine cones, mesh bags, and even a half of grapefruit. Or, you can buy a bird feeder at a local wild bird store, hardware store, or lawn and garden center. They come in all shapes and sizes, and some are specialized for using only a certain type of seed. Using different kinds of feeders placed in several different locations throughout your yard will ensure that you have more bird visitors.
Providing water for the birds: It’s easy to give birds the water they need by setting up a birdbath. One way is to use an upside-down garbage can lid placed on the ground, and surround it with stones and flowers. Fill the lid with water and watch the birds bathe and drink from it. Or, you can buy a ready-made birdbath from a wild bird store or garden center. Place it near some bushes or flowers in your yard. Most important: Be sure to change the water every day and clean the bird bath with a brush and a small amount of mild detergent once a week to make sure there is no bacteria or other harmful germs growing in the bath. Rinse the birdbath well and then refill it with clean water.
Adapted from the book, Backyard Bird Watching for Kids, by George H. Harrison.1997 Willow Creek Press. 72 pgs.