The Benefits of Backyard Birds

Tips on Building a Bird-Friendly Habitat in Your Backyard

Bird-Friendly Plants, Georgia Bird Organizations, & More!

Have you listened to your backyard recently?  That may seem like a strange question.  You may ask, “is it common practice to “listen” to your backyard? And if you did listen, what do you think you would hear?”  The truth is, your ears sometimes identify things that your eyes miss.

So go ahead, and close your eyes.

Amongst the wind blowing, and the sound of squirrels scampering in the treetops, one thing that you would most likely hear would be the sound of birdsong. Now that you hear them, can you see them?  Their prowess as they look for food, and their interaction with one another. Often taken for granted, or sometimes completely overlooked, is the pastime of birdwatching. To many, watching birds is a peaceful experience and certainly one of the simple pleasures in life.  This activity gives you such an appreciation of nature and the opportunity to sit quietly observing their antics, as well as their song. It is an instantaneous stress reliever.

Benefits of Backyard Birds

Once you begin to appreciate what is going on in your yard, it may be hard not to notice them going forward. Perhaps once you start taking time for “the birds”, you may find yourself wanting to encourage their visits.

One doesn’t necessarily think about attracting birds to one’s yard, as it seems that birds are something that we may take for granted. However, there are certain benefits to having birds frequently visit, or even take up residence close to your home.

Pest Control: Hold the pesticide! Birds are natural pest controllers and can help control insect populations in your yard. For example, many bird species feed on mosquitoes, flies, and other insects.

Pollination: Some bird species, such as hummingbirds, are important pollinators and can help increase the yield in your garden, as well as the flowers and plants in your yard.

Entertainment and Enjoyment: Watching birds can be a fun and educational experience for people of all ages. It can also be a great way to reduce stress and connect with nature.  Watching hummingbirds feed on nectar and pollen is literally adorable.

Education: Who doesn’t like to sound knowledgeable when it comes to spotting birds? If you have children in your home, you can awaken their curiosity, love, and appreciation for the great outdoors by introducing them to birdwatching.  They can also learn responsibility by helping you fill bird baths or feeders.

Conservation: A community’s growth can be considered a good thing by many, however to birds and other wild creatures it just means less space for them to inhabit. Buildings take away natural sources for birds to find food or a nest. By providing safe spaces and food sources for birds in your yard, you are contributing to the conservation of bird populations, especially for species that are declining due to habitat loss and other threats.

How to Attract Birds to Your Yard

Now that you know “why” you should attract birds to your yard, it would be good to know “how”.  Here are some good-to-know basics for creating a great spot for birds in your yard, but if there is a particular type of bird you are looking to attract, it might serve you well to do some specific research on what that type of bird is looking for in a habitat. The Georgia Audubon Society also may be a good resource for you as well.

Provide Food: By offering a variety of foods, you can attract a diverse range of bird species to your yard. You can put up bird feeders that contain a variety of seeds, nuts, and suet, as well as plant bird-friendly trees, shrubs, and flowers that produce fruit, berries, and nectar.  As mentioned above, certain types of birds like certain things.  Hummingbirds for example - feed from a particular type of tube feeder and are attracted to the color red.  Meeting the specific needs of a variety of birds will provide you with a colorful and varied population of your favorite winged fellows.

Offer Water: Birds also need water for drinking and bathing, so providing a bird bath or other water source can be a great way to attract birds to your yard. Make sure to keep the water clean and fresh, and consider adding a dripper or fountain to create moving water, which is more attractive to birds.

Supply Nesting Materials: To best cushion their eggs, provide insulation in their nest, and protect them from predators, birds choose their nesting materials very carefully.  You can help them by providing some simple provisions from your home to help them with their search.   Materials such as bits of fabric, yarn, or string (3 to 6 inches long), hair from your hairbrush, cotton balls, grass clippings, and even shredded paper all give your backyard friends some potential fodder to build their nests. Create small piles around your yard where it won’t be blown away or use a clean suet feeder stuffed with these types of materials, and the birds will find it.

Avoid Pesticides: You can do all the things mentioned above, but if you use pesticides on your plants and in your yard, you run the risk of doing significant harm to your bird population.   Sure, you may have a green lawn, but at what cost?  Pesticides can be deadly to birds (and their food sources), so avoiding their use can help create a healthy environment for them. Instead, consider using natural methods of pest control, such as planting companion plants or using physical barriers.

Keep Cats Indoors: Domestic cats are a major threat to birds, so keeping them indoors is the best option to protect your bird population.  If your cats enjoy watching the birds, you may want to build a “catio” for them, which is an enclosed outdoor structure, similar to a small screen porch for them to watch and enjoy without the danger of them having one of your favorite songbirds for a snack.

Create A Habitat: Birds need shelter and nesting sites, so creating a diverse habitat in your yard can help attract them. Planting a mix of trees, shrubs, and flowers that provide cover and nesting sites, and adding birdhouses or nesting boxes can be a great way to provide shelter and attract breeding pairs. Certain types of birds enjoy nesting in different homes, and are sometimes creative as to where they build their nests! The following is a list of native trees, plants, and shrubs to plant in your yard for your feathered friends. Providing a variety of plants with different bloom times and fruiting periods can help attract a diverse range of bird species to your yard throughout the year.

Some suggestions for native plants that are favorites for Georgia birds are:

  • American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana): The bright purple berries of this shrub are attractive to many bird species, including bluebirds, cardinals, and mockingbirds.
  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia Hirta): This hardy wildflower produces yellow or orange blooms that are a favorite of finches and other small birds.
  • Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa): The bright orange flowers of this native plant attract hummingbirds and butterflies, while the seed pods provide food for goldfinches and other birds.
  • Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus Virginiana): This native evergreen tree provides shelter and nesting sites for many bird species, including cedar waxwings and blue jays.
  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea Purpurea): The showy purple blooms of this wildflower attract goldfinches, house finches, and other seed-eating birds.
  • Red Maple (Acer Rubrum): This native tree provides early spring nectar for hummingbirds and is also a host plant for the caterpillars of many butterfly species.
  • Serviceberry (Amelanchier Arborea): The sweet berries of this native shrub are a favorite of many bird species, including robins, thrushes, and waxwings.
  • Sunflower (Helianthus Annuus): The seeds of this annual plant are a favorite of many bird species, including finches, chickadees, and sparrows.
  • Trumpet Vine (Campsis Radicans): The bright orange-red blooms of this vine attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
  • Wild Bergamot (Monarda Fistulosa): The fragrant pink or lavender blooms of this native wildflower attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

You can create an attractive and bird-friendly environment in your yard, which can provide hours of enjoyment and entertainment as you watch the birds that visit by following the above-mentioned suggestions.

It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of life that we don’t often take time to appreciate what is around us in our own yards.   We spend a great deal of time indoors.  On the computer, the phone, doing daily chores, in the car, and at work, there seems to be no end of tasks and responsibilities pulling us in every direction. There are days when the only time spent outdoors is going from car to house, from house to car.

So a challenge for this week is to take time to walk outdoors and listen to what is happening around you. If you so desire, take a look at the suggestions above, and put some into action to create your own backyard bird sanctuary.  Your feathered friends will thank you and reward you with sights and sounds for years to come!

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