Bird Facts & Fun
You can be a birdwatcher in your own backyard if you know how to
attract birds effectively.
From providing the basic necessities to
tailoring your efforts to attract specific species,
can help you plan your landscaping, garden features and local habitat
with birds in mind.
Be an Early Bird
The first step to attracting birds in spring is to be an early bird.
The first migrating birds may
appear as early as February, long
before the snow is gone and flowers are blooming.
Birders who act early to attract these initial migrants will establish
their garden as a healthy, suitable habitat, and many times the first migrants may stay nearby throughout the spring and summer
How to Attract Birds in Spring
The key to attracting birds in spring is to meet their needs after a
long migration flight and as they prepare for the nesting season.
Garden birders who pay attention to birds’ food, water, shelter
and nesting requirements
will be more successful in attracting them.
A coaltit enjoys seeds and treats from the birdtable
In the spring there are few berries, seeds or insects available for
newly arrived migrating birds.
Offering a selection of birdfeeders with
different types of birdseed and other foods will help
nourish these birds, and keeping
suet and other winter bird food available will also help the birds
recover from their long journeys. all birdfeeders should be kept clean.
For a natural food source, avoid raking dead leaves and lawns to
allow birds to glean insects
from the debris.
WHAT AND HOW TO FEED GARDEN BIRDS
WHEN AND WHERE TO SITE NESTING BOXES
TYPES OF BOX
SPECIES NESTING PREFERENCES
INTERESTING BIRD FACTS
WHAT AND HOW TO FEED GARDEN BIRDS:
There are different mixes on the market for feeders, for birdtables and for ground feeding. The better mixtures contain plenty of flaked maize, sunflower seeds, and peanut granules.
Small seeds, such as millet, attract mostly house sparrows, dunnocks, finches, reed buntings and collared doves, while flaked maize is taken readily by blackbirds. Tits and greenfinches favour peanuts and sunflower seeds. Mixes that contain chunks or whole nuts are suitable for winter feeding only. Pinhead oatmeal is excellent for many birds. Wheat and barley grains are often included in seed mixtures, but they are really only suitable for pigeons, doves and pheasants, which feed on the ground and rapidly increase in numbers, frequently deterring the smaller species.
Avoid seed mixtures that have split peas, beans, dried rice or lentils as again only the large species can eat them dry. These are added to some cheaper seed mixes to bulk them up. Any mixture containing green or pink lumps should also be avoided as these are dog biscuit, which can only be eaten when soaked.
A BABY SPARROW SHARES THE
BIRDTABLE WITH A YOUNG MALE BLACKBIRD
Peanuts: Rich in far and popular with tits, greenfinches, house sparrows, nuthatches, great spotted woodpeckers and siskins. Crush or grate them to attract robins, dunnocks and wrens. Nuthatches and coal tits may hoard peanuts. Avoid salted and dry roasted peanuts. Be careful as peanuts can contain high levels of a toxin, aflatoxin, lethal to birds, so buy from a reputable dealer.
Black sunflower seeds: An excellent year-round feed, often proving more popular than peanuts!
Fat balls, birdcake and food bars: An excellent winter food. Make your own bird cake by pouring melted fat (suet or lard) onto a mix of seeds, nuts, dried fruit, oatmeal, cheese and cake. Use about 1 portion fat to 2 portions dry mix. Mix thoroughly and then put in a mould of your own choice (an empty coconut shell or plastic cup makes an ideal birdcake feeder or you can turn it out when set and place on the birdtable)
Other fats: Lard and suet are good foods for birds, particularly in cold weather, but do not give them the congealed fat from cooking meats as this will be blended with meat juices, which makes it a breeding ground for unhealthy bacteria and may "smear" which is bad for the bird's feathers. Polyunsaturated fats and oils should be avoided altogether.
Mealworms: These are relished by robins and blue tits and may attract other insect-eating birds such as pied wagtails. They are quite expensive to buy however and must be fresh as dead or discoloured worms can give birds salmonella poisoning.
Coconut: Tits love it but only fresh, never desiccated and clean off any coconut mild from the inside before hanging it up as this will encourage the build up of black mildew.
Dog and cat food: Tinned dog and cat food forms an acceptable substitute to earthworms during the summer when the worms are too deep down for birds to reach. Blackbirds will even feed dog food to their chicks.
Rice and grains: Cooked rice is readily eaten by most species during cold weather. Uncooked rice is only attractive to larger birds (pidgeons, doves, pheasants). Uncooked oatflakes and oatmeal is also good, but do not put out cooked porridge as this is too glutinous and can damage a birds beak.
Dairy products: A little mild grated cheese can attract robins, wrens and dunnocks but never give milk to birds, they are not able to digest it.
BEWARE OF MOULDY FOODS
Many moulds are harmless but some can cause respiratory infections in birds so be careful not to put out mouldy food. If food goes stale or mouldy on your birdtable you are overfeeding. Remove it and clean the table and put out less each day.
CHAFFINCHES MALE & FEMALE
FURTHER READING: Have a look at this concise, informative article in the Guardian magazine, 2 November 2012
by Matthew Appleby it answers questions about the usefulness of the many bird food products now appearing on the UK market and gives very sound advice on the whole subject of what food to offer and what other ways we can help wild birds to survive successfully in our gardens:
WHEN AND WHERE TO SITE NESTBOXES:
The best time to put up new nestboxes is in the autumn. This allows the box to weather a little and gives birds plenty of time to “househunt” before the breeding season. If it is impossible to set-up birdhouses by fall, they should be in place as early as possible in the winter. Do not wait to see birds in
the garden before mounting or hanging their nest boxes. It may be a good idea to leave the boxes up year round so they can serve as roosting sites or shelter for migratory birds during winter. They can be taken down after the nesting season for cleaning and put back in place.
Location of the nesting box is as important in attracting certain kinds of birds as the size of the box and the entrance hole. Different species will prefer wooded, shady or open grassy areas. However, dense shade is not suitable as most birds like a sunny open space. In most cases it is a good idea to place it between 2 and 4 metres high. You can use a tree, a wall or a specially constructed nesting pole to hang the box from, but be aware that if you mount a box on the side of a tree you are giving squirrels and cats easy access to it and try to use some sort of predator guard to keep them away!
You are much more likely to attract a mating pair to a box if there is a good supply of their natural food in the vicinity too!
Protect the box from direct sunlight and gales by facing it between north and east, unless there are trees or buildings to shade the box during the day and tilt it very slightly forward so that heavy rainfall will hit the roof and not the opening. Make sure that the birds have a clear flight path to the nest without any clutter obstructing the entrance.
If placing a box on a tree try to avoid using nails as these will damage the tree. A good method is to hang it from a strand of galvanized wire slipped through the vent holes with a bungee cord and attached to both ends wire around the trunk - but the house must be securely fastened to prevent swinging as birds do not appreciate moving houses!
Finally don’t forget that areas where pesticides and herbicides are used should be avoided. They are harmful to birds and sometimes succeed in eliminating insect populations. This will not serve the best interests of the birds as insects are the primary food source of many species.
WRENS LIKE LOW, WET PLACES SUCH AS
PONDS AND REEDBEDS
TYPES OF NESTING BOX
We can encourage many of our garden birds, especially Blue Tits and Great Tits, to raise a family in our gardens by providing nest boxes. There are 3 popular types of nest boxes used in gardens, each type designed to attract a particular group of birds.
SPECIES NESTING PREFERENCES:
House and Tree sparrows and Starlings like to nest in colonies so two or more boxes can even be sited on the same side of the house and all will be used if there is a good supply of natural food. They will also be happy nesting high up right under the eaves of the house but be careful not to place boxes too close to an area already popular with House martins, another species that likes to nest in groups.
Most other species will not tolerate a second pair in the same garden unless it happens to be on the edge of two territories.
Robins and Wrens prefer to be nearer the ground, hidden away and well sheltered, place open fronted boxes for theses species below 2 metres in the midst of bushes or similar vegetation.
Boxes for most species of Tits should be 2 – 4 metres high. Tits will only become interested in nest boxes around February or March.
Spotted flycatchers prefer to be 2 – 4 metres and you will have more luck with them if you site the box on a tree trunk with a clear outlook but some sheltering vegetation.
Woodpeckers will only be drawn to boxes on a tree trunk and these should be placed at least 3 metres high with a clear flight path and well away from disturbance.
INTERESTING BIRD FACTS:
Approximately ten thousand bird species share the world with humans.
With over three thousand native species, South America is the world's bird capital. The rough world breakdown goes as follows:
South America: 3,200 bird species
Asia: 2,900 bird species
Africa: 2,300 bird species
North America (including Central America, Mexico, United States, Canada and Caribbean) 2,00 bird species
United States: 888 bird species
Australia: 1,700 bird species
Europe: 1,000 bird species
Antarctica: 65 bird species
The arctic tern possibly holds the title as longest migrator, flying (round trip) 18,600 miles between the arctic and Antarctica.
All birds molt and regrow their feathers.
Approximately ninety bird species have gone extinct since 1681.
The Passenger Pigeon, Carolina Parakeet, Labrador Duck and (probably) Ivory Billed-woodpecker are the most well known extinct native species.
With approximately 425 species divided into approximately 100 genera, the tyrant flycatchers (Tyrannidae) are the world's largest bird family.
The Ostrich (Struthio camelus) is the largest living bird.
The Bee Hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) is the world's smallest bird.
The Peregrine Falcon gets credit as the world's fastest flying bird.
While birds are known for their ability to fly, not all birds fly. Penguins, Ostrich, Rhea, Kiwi and a few duck and grebe species are among the world's flightless birds
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