Backyard Birding Essentials for Fall
Birding is a fun and fascinating hobby for the whole family. Children learn so much about nature at an early age, and will become more inclined to spend time outdoors. Birdwatching can lead to a range of activities, from building birdhouses to hiking and photography.
Avid birders soon learn to recognize birds by their song or call, color and markings. You’ll get to know the regular visitors to your birdfeeder, and with luck, feel the excitement of spotting a rare bird during the migration seasons. The whole family will be entranced by the beauty and antics of birds. Emerge2 can guide you to what you need to attract birds to your backyard.
No Need to Tidy up Your Garden!
Create a welcoming oasis by resisting the urge to cut back all your plants in the fall. Even though they have passed their prime, many plants will continue to provide nourishment and shelter to birds, as well as toads, snails and insects. Grasses, seeds in spent blooms, rosehips, crabapples, berries and nuts will keep birds well fed.
Let leaves rest on garden beds to provide homes to insects and larvae, a good source of food and protein for birds.
Leaving foliage, blooms, and fallen branches in place also add character to your garden in the winter months while giving birds shelter and protection from predators. However, if plants and branches are dead, damaged, or taking over your garden, then go ahead and prune them.
Plant native plants, shrubs and trees this fall or next spring to attract birds. Sunflowers look stunning and give birds a satisfying buffet. You can also harvest the sunflower seeds in the fall for your bird feeder in the winter.
Choosing a Bird Feeder
Not all birds dine alike! Some prefer to perch while eating and others like to peck at seeds on the ground. Offer them several different feeding stations to appeal to a wider variety of birds.
If you decide to start feeding birds in the fall or winter, make sure you continue until the spring so that birds don’t have to waste precious energy searching for new food sources in the cold of winter.
Be sure to clean your bird feeder every time you refill it. Remove leftover or wet seeds, wash the feeder with soapy water, rinse, and let it dry.
Squirrels are determined to get your bird seed. There are many “squirrel-proof” bird feeders available, but squirrels are very agile (and entertaining!), so it’s not always easy to keep them from devouring the seeds.
Try adding a dome baffle to the pole and placing your birdfeeder away from a fence or branch so squirrels can’t jump onto it.
Build your own platform feeder that you can fasten to a post or mount underneath your window sill. Spread seeds on the shelf and be ready to attract a larger number of birds.
Hanging Bird Feeder
Hang a bird feeder on a tall post or tree branch in your yard or on your balcony. There are also bird feeders that you can attach to your window for a very close-up view of birds. Help birds find your feeder by sprinkling a few sunflower seeds around your yard in plain view.
Creating a Safe Space
- Place your bird feeder in a sheltered area, if possible.
- Make sure you can see your feeder from a window in your house.
- Avoid placing your feeder next to shrubs to prevent cats from hiding in wait for the birds.
- Birds need trees nearby to fly to, in case a hawk or other predator is lurking in your backyard.
- If your windows reflect trees and sky, birds may fly straight into them. Keep birds from being hurt by covering windows with one-way transparent film, curtains or evenly spaced decals.
Pesticides and Fertilizers
Check the products you use in your garden. Before using pesticides and fertilizers in any season, read the label to make sure they will not pose any risk to your children, pets, birds, insects and other wildlife. Mulched leaves and grass clippings are a safer and natural way to feed your lawn and garden instead.
Birdfeeders and Avian Flu
Although the chance of spreading avian flu to birds at your feeder is low, it’s always good to keep your feeders and bird baths clean. As an extra precaution during times of avian flu, wash feeders regularly with one part bleach to nine parts water, rinse thoroughly, and let dry.
Considering Food Options
You’ll soon discover the seeds each type of bird prefers. Black oil sunflower seeds attract the most birds. They are easier to crack open than some thicker shelled sunflower seeds, and provide a higher level of fat and protein.
Finches love Nyjer seeds. Finches love Nyjer seeds. You can also buy wild bird seed - a mixture of many types of seeds that will appeal to a wide range of birds.
Seed Blends and Hacks
Try mixing chick scratch, a mixture of corn, milo, millet, oats, barley and wheat, with black oil sunflower seeds for a more affordable bird seed blend.
If you find that your feeder is being swamped by one type of bird – often grackles and starlings – and they are keeping other birds away, you can change the type of seed for a while. To encourage dominant birds to go elsewhere, fill your feeders with seeds they don’t like: safflower, nyjer and thistle. You will soon see finches, chickadees, cardinals and nuthatches again.
Birds also love to freshen up in clean water, and they get thirsty, so keep your birdbath clean and full of fresh water.
You can make your own vegetarian or traditional hard beef fat suet or buy it ready-made to help birds stay warm in the freezing cold winter temperatures. Insert the suet into a metal cage or a wooden log with holes.
To make vegetarian suet, mix bird seed, oats, and corn meal together. Combine and melt shortening and nut butter. Add the seeds to the melted mixture. Spoon into an ice cube tray and freeze. Then place the suet in your suet feeder to attract woodpeckers and nuthatches.
You’ve probably seen birds pecking at the ground to find sand or gravel that helps them to digest their food. It’s a good idea to supplement your bird seed with some ground oyster shells, or sprinkle some sand or gravel in your backyard if it isn’t already part of your landscaping.
Getting a Birdhouse
Build or buy some birdhouses and place them in safe places around your yard to encourage visiting birds to nest in your garden next spring. Make the right sized entry hole for the types of birds that frequent your yard. Birdhouses need a clean-out door so you can remove the nest and clean the birdhouse once the fledglings have left.
Let the Birding Begin!
Now all you need is a pair of binoculars for a close-up look at the birds that will be visiting your feeder, and a notebook to record your sightings. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to glimpse a rare bird!
If you need help with choosing supplies for your birding adventures, drop by Emerge2 – we're always ready to assist you.