Tips For Attracting Birds To Your Yard This Fall

It's officially fall and birds are heading south. I talked to Stephen Kress, vice president for bird conservation at the National Audubon Society. Here are Stephen's tips for making your backyard into bird heaven:

1. Get the Right Bird Feeder
"Bird feeders help to bring birds into view, but they are not essential to the well-being of the birds," says Stephen. Follow these tips for feeder safety:

  • Place your feeder either within three feet of window or more than thirty feet from it -- anything in between is a distance at which a bird might unwittingly fly into the glass.
  • Feeders should be cleaned at least once a year or more; an easy way to remember is to clean your feeder each time you refill it. Stephen recommends scrubbing with a solution of one part non-chlorinated bleach to ten parts water.

2. Serve Good Food
Birds will dig through inexpensive bird feed mixes and find the big seeds they want, while the rest ends up on the ground. Skip the cheap stuff and invest in a high-quality, fresh seed. Black oil sunflower seeds, are by far the most attractive single seed for most kinds of birds. Plus, don't use seeds that are more than a year old, as they will often mold and diseases can be transmitted from old food.

3. Invest in a Bird Bath
The Audubon Society encourages bird baths, but like bird feeders they can be a hazard to birds if they are not tended or if they are too close to the house.

  • Aim high. Bird baths on a pedestal are safer than those close to the ground.
  • Don't go deep. Select a shallow bird bath -- birds have short legs and most commercial bird baths are just too deep, says Stephen.
  • Keep water clean. Don't let the water get cloudy, and don't let algae grow. Plus, if water is left out all the time without being changed, mosquitoes can grow.

4. Don't Forget the Birdhouse
Clean out birdhouses and remove old nests. Birds won't be nesting in the fall or winter, but they will occasionally use birdhouses as roosts to take shelter in cold weather. Plus, check in on your house mid-winter -- tree-living mice will build their nests in birdhouses!

If you get really serious about attracting birds to your yard, you need to start thinking of your yard as a bird habitat. To create an environment that is safe for the birds, there are several things to keep in mind:

  • Stop using chemicals. Using lawn chemicals is dangerous to birds, pets and people. Period. Explore other options.
  • Embrace less lawn. Decrease the actual area of lawn in your yard and let the grass you do have grow longer, particularly further away from the house.
  • Planting native plants. Local, native plants are well-adapted to feed the birds, not just berries, but insects that are adapted to native trees.
  • Mimic natural growth. Arrange trees and shrubs planted in a more natural matter - create layers.

Don't be too tidy. Let things go a little more wild, and rake leaves under shrubs and let them decompose, it's great for the soil and birds love it. Last but not least: Keep cats indoors. If you let your felines out, they might think your feathered friends are snacks! Plus, Stephen notes, it's better for the cats as well -- they'll live much longer.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

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