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There are a number of ways to attract birds to your garden, from planting native plants to providing safe stopover areas for them to eat, drink and nest.
A simple birdbath is a great start. Change water every 2-3 days in summer and use a heater in the winter. Place the water container about 10 feet from dense shrubs or other cover that predators may use.
Select a variety of native plants to offer year-round food in the form of seeds, berries, nuts, and nectar. Try to recreate the plant ecosystem native to your area. Evergreen trees and shrubs provide excellent cover through all seasons, if they are part of your local ecosystem. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has lists of recommended native plants by region and state.
Following organic practices helps wildlife. Insects are the primary source of food for many bird species and are an important source of protein and fats for growing juvenile birds.
Dead trees provide cavity-dwelling places for birds to raise young and as a source to collect insects for food. Many species will also seek shelter from bad weather inside these hollowed out trees.
Make sure the nesting boxes have ventilation holes at the top and drainage holes below. Do not use a box with a perch, as house sparrows are known to sit on a nesting box perch and peck at other birds using the nesting box. Be sure to monitor the boxes for invasive animal species known to harm or out-compete native species.
Start with larger logs and top with smaller branches. Some birds will hunt, roost or even nest in brush piles.
Bird feeders are great sources of supplemental food during times of food scarcity, and also enhance bird viewing opportunities.
Many invasive plants out-compete the native species favored by birds, insects and other wildlife. Check with your local U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension System office for information on plant species to avoid. Find your local Cooperative Extension System office.
Lawns have little value to birds or other wildlife, and they require more energy for mowing, applying fertilizers and watering.
Hummingbirds are a useful—and fascinating—addition to any wildlife garden, not only for their pollination skills, but also for their amazing wingspan and maneuvering. These tiny miracle birds feed on nectar from flowers, so providing native plants with red, tubular flowers is best.
Feeders designed to hold sugar water "nectar" will be used by hummingbirds too. Most models are colored red to mimic their favorite flowers.
1. Dissolve one part white sugar in four parts hot water.
2. Boil the water if you plan to store the nectar in the refrigerator.
3. Never use honey, which ferments easily, or artificial sweeteners, which have no food value for birds. Red food coloring is not recommended as it may be harmful to birds.
4. Let the solution cool to room temperature before putting it in your feeder. You can store homemade nectar for up to a week in the refrigerator.
Once you fill your feeder, don't forget to empty, rinse and refill your feeder every two to three days (especially in warm weather) to prevent spoiling. This ensures that hummingbirds won't become sick from drinking bad nectar.
Get step-by-step instructions for making a hummingbird feeder — a perfect activity with kids!