Many homeowners store away their bird feeders once warm weather arrives.
That’s a mistake because feeding summer birds can be as much fun as feeding birds during winter. Now, the males of the various species are dressed in their summertime best, and their glorious calls seem to emanate from all directions.
A backyard that is adequately landscaped and outfitted with a variety of bird feeders and nesting boxes will attract many more species of birds than will winter feeding. For instance, on any given summer day I can easily count 20 different species of birds using my backyard.
Follow the simple steps below and you can lure a diversity of birds to your yard.
1. To attract summer birds, you should provide an assortment of food. Sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, millet, corn and suet are all good choices. Be sure to place several orange halves and a small container filled with grape jelly to attract orioles, catbirds and other fruit-loving birds. If you’re really lucky, scarlet tanagers might visit your yard to dine on your fruit offerings. Don’t forget the nectar feeders for hummingbirds.
2. To dispense an assortment of feed, several types of feeders should be used. Suet can be placed in a wire basket to attract woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and even catbirds and rose-breasted grosbeaks. Sunflower seeds work well in a standard gravity-type feeder and will lure birds such as finches, jays, blackbirds, grosbeaks and cardinals. A tube feeder is the best for dispensing thistle, which attracts finches, sparrows, buntings and others. Ground-feeding birds like mourning doves and sparrows prefer to feed from a tray-type feeder that is low to ground, or you can sprinkle seed directly on the ground. Cracked corn and a finch mix will attract those birds, plus others.
3. Provide water for your yard birds if you can. A simple birdbath works fine, but even better is a small wildlife pond. Pond liners can be dug into your yard and an electronic circulating pump can even provide a waterfall. You won’t believe the number of birds that will use a water fixture to drink and bathe.
4. Feeder location can be important. If possible, place your feeders in a spot that is out of the wind and away from heavy cover where predators such as house cats and birds-of-prey can hide. Most people feed birds for enjoyment so locate your feeders where you can see them from a window. It’s a good idea to place your feeders in different locations so if large, intimidating birds use one feeder, smaller more skittish birds can use another. For example, blue jays and grackles like corn and sunflower seeds better than thistle seed. So, by locating your thistle feeder a distance away you allow birds like goldfinches and indigo buntings a chance to feed undisturbed by the larger birds.
The number of birds and the variety of species you will attract to your yard by placing feeders will vary according to the habitat surrounding your home. The more diverse the habitat types, the greater number of bird species you can expect to draw.
Related: Bill Marchel: Sky Dance
Landscaping for wildlife is popular these days. A bird-attracting landscape project can be as simple as planting a fruit-bearing tree or two, or as elaborate as manipulating every nook and cranny of your yard in such a way as to attract and hold a medley of birds.
Include the entire family in your summer bird feeding efforts. Get the kids involved by making it their responsibility to keep the feeders filled. Buy a field guide to birds (or a birding app for your smartphone) and challenge the family to identify as many bird species as they can.
Enjoy the colorful birds of summer.