Sometimes the BEST shows are free, and delivered by nature. If bird watching for you conjures up images of octogenarians with binoculars drifting in and out of nap-time on park benches, then you are selling nature short. We are lucky to live in an area that is home to so many different kinds of colorful, musical, magical creatures. Bird watching can not only be relaxing and exciting at the same time, but it’s a great way for families to learn to appreciate nature together. And you don’t even have to leave home to do it.
There are many different ways to attract birds to your yard or surrounding property, from something as simple as throwing out bread crumbs, to something as complex as actually planning your landscaping around the draw of feathered friends. Here are a few things you might want to try to invite birds to visit your home and yard.
First of all, it is important to remember that there is a HUGE variety of birds in NJ, and that they differ greatly in diet and habits. In other words, putting out one birdfeeder full of seed will NOT attract EVERY kind of bird. If you are looking to attract a specific variety, be sure to do your research into what draws them, what they eat, and what they like. If, on the other hand, you are sending out an open invitation to all feathered friends, you may want to vary it up a bit to attract a larger diversity of birds.
Not all birds share the same diet. There are specific feeders available for purchase for both seeds (which also come in varieties for the seed-eating birds) and suet (which is animal fat based, for the protein eating birds). Fruit, nuts, and even some table scraps can be used as food for birds, as well. Choose WHERE you want the feeder or feeders to be . . . . and choose a spot that is near a window for optimal bird viewing, and in an open enough area for the birds to see it, but with enough surrounding brush or leaves to make it a comfortable place for them to visit. If squirrels abound in your area (and they certainly DO in this part of NJ!), then you may want to choose a birdfeeder that thwarts squirrel feeding . . . . unless you’d enjoy watching those fuzzy little entertaining guys, too! And if choosing the correct type of feeder is challenging, then why not make one with the kids? The old “pine cone rolled in peanut butter and seeds” is a great way to invite birds to come feast.
Similarly, why not have the kids help make a place for the birds to come rest their weary little feathered heads? Bird houses are a fun project to work on together, and NOTHING beats a kid’s excitement when baby birds are hatched in a house they themselves have made. (The kids, not the baby birds. They basically just peep and eat a lot.) There are many beautiful birdhouses available for sale, including the multi-family “bird condos,” but you can also make a birdhouse at home from scraps of wood, or even an empty cardboard or plastic milk carton. For that matter, head into a Lowe’s or Home Depot, where they often offer free “kid craft” times. Even if you may have missed “birdhouse day,” you can ask if they have any of those free kits left over, and they often do, and bring it home to complete. Birds are much more likely to stick around in a welcoming environment. And who doesn’t love to watch baby birds being fed by Mom? Sooooooo much better than reading about it in science class!
All birds need water. A birdbath is a fantastic way to invite birds to stay, and it’s fun to watch them in it. If you can offer one with running water, even a small, gentle fountain, the birds will be much more likely to see and hear it, and come for a frolic. And, hey . . . . why not plant a hummingbird bush nearby? Hummingbirds and woodpeckers drink nectar directly from flowers, and the right kind of foliage can actually draw them in. Make it a little “birdie rest stop.”
Experiment with different foods, houses, and flowers. Be observant. Get yourself some books on local birds, and pick up on the little things . . . . . . like the fact that if you see a bright red male cardinal, you will probably also be able to find at least one brown female one with a bright orange beak nearby. Have binoculars hanging near the window closest to the birds’ favorite area. Keep a photographic journal of birds that you spot. Be savvy about your new little neighbors. Don’t put the birdfeeder close to the ground and let the cats out, for example. Or put the birdhouse atop the trampoline post. Offer a safe, relatively quiet, and welcoming environment, and you’re likely to have some of the most colorful and spectacular visitors to your yard. It’s a great experience for everyone in the family . . . . and it’s a great way to help out some of God’s creatures at the same time.