Make your yard bird-friendly
14 Ways to Make Your Backyard Bird-Friendly
- Build a birdhouse. Use the right nest box dimensions for the hole and box size depending upon the species of bird you want to attract. Keep the exterior either natural wood or light in colour to reflect heat, and never paint or finish the interior walls. Finally, remember it is location, location, location for birds also – install nest boxes for species likely to occur near you and in the appropriate habitat.
- Feed the birds. Many bird species stay in Canada year-round and could use your help to make it through the winter. Find out if your favourite bird likes seed mixes, suet mixes, or fruits like raisins and chopped apple. Maintain your feeders and change seed regularly to keep it from getting mouldy.
- Throw old bread in the bin. Old baked goods are prone to mould, and fill a bird’s belly without meeting its nutritional needs. Toxins produced by the mould can kill birds. Offer dry seed, grains or fruits instead.
- Put waste in its place. Birds become entangled in plastic bags, fishing line and other garbage, resulting in injury, strangulation or easy predation.
- Break up your windows with stickers, decals or strips of colour. Unbroken reflections baffle birds, causing them to fly into the glass. In extreme cases hang mesh (e.g. like a fish net) in front of the window to prevent collisions.
- Cap your chimneys and dryer vents, but only if absolutely sure that they aren’t already home to Chimney Swifts (Chimney Swifts prefer using old-style chimneys). Wire mesh overtop of your chimney will keep birds from roosting or roasting in your furnace or fireplace. If Chimney Swifts are nesting in your chimney, or if you have an old-style (brick) chimney, make sure to use a swift friendly cap that allows swifts in and out but prevents larger birds like starlings and owls from entering.
- Provide a water source. Bird baths need only be an inch or two deep and have a shallow slope. If you have cats that prowl the neighbourhood, it’s best to mount the bath on a pedestal. Bird baths should be cleaned once a week with a stiff brush.
- Plant native plants. They provide shelter, places to raise young, and food sources. Good choices include aspen (Populus), willow (Salix), dogwoods (Cornus), Saskatoon berry (Amelanchier), sunflowers, Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), Columbine, bee balm (Monarda), Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium), and Asters. White Cedar and White Spruce provide year-round green and good cover. No yard? Try planters.
- Do not use herbicides on your lawn. Not only is the resulting monoculture duller than birding at high noon, these poisons get ingested into the food chain and washed into the waterways. If it says “-cide” on your weed remedy, avoid it.
- Check your grass, shrubs and trees before trimming. If you find a nest, cultivate patience – it only takes a couple of weeks for chicks to fly away.
- Adopt a habitat. Be it a nature trail, stream, meadow, or woodlot, you can help by getting your hands dirty and restoring a place into suitable habitat for wildlife. Contact your local naturalist club for help.
- Leave babes in the woods. Replace a fledgling in its nest (your scent will not bother its family) or leave it on the ground, where its parents are probably caring for it. If you are certain a bird is orphaned, call a wildlife rehabilitation centre.
- Drive carefully, especially in rural areas. Roadside birds take flight at an angle—possibly straight into your vehicle’s path—so slow down.
- Get the lead out. Sinkers cause acute or chronic lead poisoning of thousands of birds in Canada each year. Use non-toxic alternatives.
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