Wild birds are our backyard buddies: A swallow can eat a thousand mosquitoes daily; and watching birds glide and listening to their songs can soothe our jangled nerves.
Here are some tips to attract some feathered friends to your backyard.
Raid Your Pantry
You’d be surprised how much bird food you already have stashed in your pantry.
- Stale bread and crackers, peanuts (raw, roasted, shelled — but not salted), and oatmeal provide a good bird nosh.
- Robins, orioles, bluebirds, and cedar waxwings will eat cut up fruit, such as oranges, placed on a platform covered by a roof to keep out rodents.
- Woodpeckers and nuthatches will lick peanut butter off tree bark.
- Avoid salty and highly processed food; it’s no better for the birds than it is for us.
- Don’t waste money on shelled sunflower seeds. Birds are accustomed to cracking shells in the wild and will happily do it at your feeder.
Water’s Almost Free
Water in birdbaths and fountains attracts birds that don’t eat seed, like robins.
If you want to attract more birds, make the water ripple with a solar water wiggler ($40). These hand-sized agitators make the birdbath look more like a natural water source and discourage mosquito eggs from hatching.
Clean and fill the birdbath daily with a garden hose.
Grow Your Own Bird Homes
Birds don’t need to nest at the Ritz. They’ll happily reside in a nesting gourd (sometimes called a bottle gourd) you can grow yourself.
You can get fancy and paint and varnish them. Or just let them dry on the vine, drill an entrance hole, and hang them.
Nesting gourds are harder to clean than other bird homes. So either pick out the old nests in winter, or throw them away and grow new ones when the weather warms.
You can easily attract three or four nesting families each spring and summer.