By Craig Sernotti
Birds in the backyard, whether your yard is a farm or a small square of land behind your house, add beauty, mystery, and drama to each day. Unlike a pet, backyard birds allow enthusiasts to feed and observe as their time permits. From woodpeckers to blue jays to hawks, the types of birds seen in the backyard vary from state to state and from one region of the country to another.
The Optimal Backyard to Attract Birds
If you live on a farm surrounded by prairie grass, the birds you'll see will be different from the birds your friend sees in New York City or the ones your cousin sees in the Virginia mountains. Habitats or kinds of backyards can also be further defined by elevation, amount of water, and the types of plants that grow in them.
Here is where research comes into play. If you learn which birds are present in your area and what kind of habitat is ideal for them, then you are more likely to attract birds to your backyard. Birds tend to remain where they have food, water, and cover that meet their needs. If you meet all these needs, local birds are more likely to visit.
Birds need a large amount of food relative to their size because they have a high metabolic rate. They also replace their feathers annually, which requires energy. Birds get energy from the same source humans do—from food.
If you provide food, birds will come. You can spread a few feeders around your backyard visible from your windows. The best food to offer in feeders is a high-quality seed mix, like one of Kaytee's wild bird mixes. Store the seeds in a metal can with a tight-fitting lid to prevent insect or rodent infestation. It can be placed inside your home or outside. If you keep the container outside, make sure that it is inaccessible to hungry animals like squirrels.
If you provide nest boxes and materials for birds to build a nest, your backyard can become a regularly visited breeding ground. Materials vary and include twigs, pieces of string or yard, and dried moss, among many others.
Water is essential for life, and birds are no exception. Birdbaths are drinking and bathing stations for birds and provide pure entertainment for you! Keep the water levels at about 1 inch (2.5 cm), and change the water regularly.
Watching Your Backyard Birds
A casual observer may be content with simply sitting by a window and watching birds frolic in a birdbath or eat from a feeder. The more serious bird-watcher will want to get closer to the action. In a case like this, purchasing a pair of binoculars is in order.
There are many types of binoculars available, and the numerous options and features available in today's optics can be overwhelming. Start your binoculars search at stores that specialize in backyard bird-related feed and supplies. Binoculars made for birding (observing birds) have a relatively close focus and quality lenses for detail. Either a "7 x 35" or "8 x 42" pair is an excellent choice. The first number in these quoted pairs is the magnification, or power. In the case of the "7 x 35" pair, the 7 means that the image appears seven times as large as with the unaided eye. The second number indicates the light that enters the lens. The most common number is 35. The higher the number, the more light enters the lens.