12/12/2012 9:58:00 PM Column: Attracting a wider variety of birds to your yard
Eric Moore Courier Columnist
Customers frequently ask how they can attract a wider variety of birds to their yard. We are blessed in the Central Highlands area to have an amazing diversity of wild bird species. Much of this species richness can be attributed to the varied habitats that occur in this region.
The biggest factor affecting the variety of birds that frequent your yard is the habitat surrounding your home. Folks living in areas with a variety of mature native plants will attract many more bird species than someone who has a yard landscaped with decorative rock.
The most important thing you can do to attract wild birds to your yard is to create an inviting habitat - a habitat with an abundance of native grasses, shrubs and trees that produce nuts, seeds, berries and nectar for the birds.
When you think about it, the needs of wild birds are not all that different than what our needs are - food, water and shelter. Plants provide natural food sources and they provide shelter for nest building, rearing young, protection from the elements and a place to roost at night.
If you already have great landscaping in place, probably the next most important thing you can do to attract birds to your yard is provide a source of water. It doesn't have to be fancy - just a shallow tray or birdbath will suffice. If you can provide moving water - such as a pond or a fountain - that is even better.
If you are already doing all of the basics, what else can you do to attract a wider variety of birds? Providing a variety of food sources is a great way to entice birds into your yard.
If you feed only one type of seed, then you will only attract those kinds of birds that prefer that type of seed. As you provide a wider variety of seeds - such as black-oil sunflower, striped sunflower, white-proso millet, safflower or peanut pieces - you will appeal to a wider variety of birds.
Birds are picky and not all birdseed is the same. It is important to stay away from cheap birdseed that is made up mostly of filler ingredients. Birdseed with a lot of filler does not attract a good variety of birds, and most of it ends up on the ground. The birds kick out of the feeder all of the stuff they don't want in order to get to the more desirable seeds.
If you live in an area with a lot of trees I recommend providing suet as an excellent way to attract non-seed-eating birds, such as Bushtits, wrens, warblers, kinglets and woodpeckers.
Providing fruit is another excellent way to attract a wider variety of birds. Many bird species, such as American Robins, are not seed-eaters. For example, if you want to attract robins to your yard and you have a good selection of bird feeders and birdseed, robins would be completely uninterested. However, if you provided live mealworms and fruit, along with water, they would be very interested in what you are offering.
There is actually a science to attracting birds to your yard - each bird species has specific dietary preferences. For quail, it is white-proso millet; for goldfinches, it is nyjer thistle seed; for House Finches, it is black-oil sunflower; for Bushtits, it is suet. To attract Western Scrub-jays, feed peanuts in the shell; and for hummingbirds, provide sugar water. If you need help or advice on attracting wild birds to your yard, come see us - we can help!
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric M. Moore is the owner of Jay's Bird Barn, with two locations to serve northern Arizona-1046 Willow Creek Road in Prescott, and 2360 State Highway 89A in Sedona. Eric has been an avid birder for over 45 years. If you have specific questions related to wild birds which you would like discussed in future articles, email Eric at email@example.com.