As more land is used to accommodate the ever-growing human population, yards and city parks become important bird habitat. Diversified landscaping and feeding stations offer an oasis of resources in the middle of human domain. Feeding and watching birds gives families the opportunity to practice conservation right in their own yards. Children can learn and enjoy the wonders of nature right from the kitchen window. Children will be able to observe the hatching of young chicks and learn how many birds help control the insect population.
One fun aspect of feeding birds is learning what birds are visiting your backyard habitat. There are several good identification field guides such as National Geographic, Peterson's East & West and Birds of North America through which the wild birds can be identified. Birds are grouped by physical characteristics. It is fairly easy to distinguish a duck from a songbird by just looking at body shape and size, as well as the beak and feet shapes. These physical characteristics will help identify birds: size, body shape, colors, markings, beak shape, feet and wing shape in flight. Birds have a variety of calls. Good listeners can learn to tell the difference between “chickadee" and “cheerily - cheerio - cheeriup" calls of the Black-capped Chickadee and the American Robin. The most important element is the type of food offered to the wild birds. The widest variety of food sources ensures the widest variety of birds. Ensure that your bird feeder is kept clean. Old, moldy seed left in the feeder will not attract wild birds. Not only is the food type important, but the time period you feed and the consistency of feeding is very important as well.
Many people will only feed the birds in the winter months, which is when they need it most, however, by feeding throughout the spring and summer months you will attract the migratory birds returning from southern climates. In addition, by feeding in the spring and summer, parenting birds will have easy access to a food source for their young. Food like seeds, protein rich insects and worms, flies; birds love mosquitoes, spiders, aphids and ants. Do not kill all the bugs in your yard if you want birds. Flowers, shrubs and trees will encourage a rich insect life in your yard that will, in turn, provide necessary food for wild birds. If you want to attract hummingbirds to your garden, this can be accomplished in several ways. If you plant honeysuckle, common lilac (with purple flowers), red geraniums, nasturtium, red petunias, red salvia, coral bells, columbine, fuchsia and even scarlet runner beans, there is a good chance that you will see hummingbirds feeding among your flowers. Fresh, clean water made available year round is an important element of attracting wild birds.
The simplest and most readily available is a shallow birdbath. Birdbaths can be kept thawed even in winter by a birdbath heater. Most garden birds like a water source far enough from surrounding vegetation to offer surveillance against a surprise attack from squirrels, rats, big birds. If there is water falling or dripping making sound this will attract birds even more towards the backyard. Birds are dependent on flight for safety; they are most vulnerable when they are “grounded” to rest, feed or nest. To a bird, protection means staying both comfortable and safe. Again, a wide variety of plant vegetation and trees will find the best range of habitat for birds. The selection of plants and their arrangement in the landscape are important in making a bird feel at home. Protection from cold winds and driving rain allow birds to maintain body heat, and keep healthy. Birds that are exposed to cold, wet and windy weather are very vulnerable to exposure and resulting death. Without protective cover near by, wild birds will not frequent bird feeders even if they are the best feeders with the most desirable seed. Build nest and bird houses for birds to raise their families and provide them with shelter. When the birds will feel that there is a shelter provided to take care of the baby birds they will build their natural nests and start living and heave their family. If you specially want to attract humming birds then take care that your feeders are full because they will begin moving south as early as July but it will take several months for the birds to begin to reach the southern U. S. and they can use your feeders during the trip. They eat lots of protein in their diets too and that doesn't come from sugar feeders and they need insects too. It is important to leave your feeders up and full. Migrating birds need all the quick and easy nourishment they can find to sustain the incredible energy demands of migration. It is vital that hummingbirds fatten up for their extended trips, particularly those crossing the Gulf of Mexico. For several weeks after your regular summer hummingbirds have left your flowers and feeders, migrating birds could be quickly passing through your gardens unnoticed. Leaving your feeders up for at least three weeks after seeing your last hummingbird is essential.
Paul is Head of Training for a major UK Charitable Organisation with a wealth of experience in personal development, management development, e-learning and operational management. In addition he owns PK eBooks (http://www.pk-ebooks.co.uk ) and has just published a series of Bird Watching eBooks which can be found at http://www.pk-ebooks.co.uk/birding_for_everyone.htm