What to Know About Building a Bird-Friendly Environment In Your Backyard!
Your Guide to Flocking Together With Birds of a Feather!
Information on Bird Watching in Kansas City
Watching birds is such a peaceful experience and certainly one of the simple pleasures in life. This activity gives you such an appreciation of nature and the opportunity to sit quietly appreciating their antics, as well as their song. These days, people tend to lead such busy lives that we often don’t take time to stop, look, and listen to the beauty around us in our own backyard.
Benefits of Backyard Neighbors
One doesn’t necessarily think about attracting birds to one’s yard, as it seems that birds are something that we may take for granted. However, there are certain benefits to having birds frequently visit, or even take up residence close to your home.
Pest Control: Hold the pesticide! Birds are natural pest controllers and can help control insect populations in your yard. For example, many bird species feed on mosquitoes, flies, and other insects
Pollination: Some bird species, such as hummingbirds, are important pollinators and can help increase the yield in your garden, as well as the flowers and plants in your yard.
Entertainment and Enjoyment: Watching birds can be a fun and educational experience for people of all ages. It can also be a great way to reduce stress and connect with nature. Watching hummingbirds feed on nectar and pollen is literally, adorable.
Education: Who doesn’t like to sound knowledgeable when it comes to spotting birds? If you have children in your home, you can awaken their curiosity, as well as their love and appreciation for the outdoors by introducing them to birdwatching. They can also learn responsibility by helping you fill birdbaths or feeders.
Conservation: A communities growth can be considered a good thing by many, however to birds and other wild creatures, it just means less space for them to inhabit. Building takes away natural sources for birds to find food or a nest. By providing safe spaces and food sources for birds in your yard, you are contributing to the conservation of bird populations, especially for species that are declining due to habitat loss and other threats.
How to Attract Birds to Your Yard
Now that you know “why” you should attract birds to your yard, it would be good to know “how”. We will give you the basics that all birds appreciate, but if there is a particular type of bird you are looking to attract, it might serve you well to do some specific research on what that type of bird is looking for in a habitat.
Provide Food: By offering a variety of foods, you can attract a diverse range of bird species to your yard. You can put up bird feeders that contain a variety of seeds, nuts, and suet or plant bird-friendly trees, shrubs, and flowers that produce fruit, berries, and nectar. As mentioned above, certain types of birds like certain things. Hummingbirds for example - feed from a particular type of tube feeder and are attracted to the color red. Meeting the specific needs of a variety of birds will provide you with a colorful and varied population of your favorite winged fellows.
Offer Water: Birds also need water for drinking and bathing, so providing a bird bath or other water source can be a great way to attract birds to your yard. Make sure to keep the water clean and fresh, and consider adding a dripper or fountain to create moving water, which is more attractive to birds.
Create Habitat: Birds need shelter and nesting sites, so creating a diverse habitat in your yard can help attract them. Planting a mix of trees, shrubs, and flowers that provide cover and nesting sites, and adding birdhouses or nesting boxes can be a great way to provide shelter and attract breeding pairs. Certain types of birds enjoy nesting is different homes, and are sometimes creative as to where they build their nests. We’ve even known some to move into an unused barbeque grill! For a great list of Missouri native trees, plants, and shrubs to plant in your yard for your feathered friends, the Missouri Botanical Garden website has a wonderful list, complete with pictures here. Providing a variety of plants with different bloom times and fruiting periods can help attract a diverse range of bird species to your yard throughout the year.
Supply Nesting Materials: To best cushion their eggs, provide insulation in their nest, and to protect them from predators, birds choose their nesting materials very carefully. You can help them by providing some simple provisions from your home to help them with their search. Materials such as bits of fabric, yarn, or string (3 to 6 inches long), hair from your hairbrush, cotton balls, grass clippings, and even shredded paper all give your backyard friends some potential fodder to build their nests. Create small piles around your yard where it won’t be blown away or use a clean suet feeder stuffed with these types of materials, and the birds will find it.
Avoid Pesticides: You can do all the things mentioned above, but if you use pesticides on your plants and in your yard, you run the risk of doing significant harm to your bird population. Sure, you may have a green lawn, but at what cost? Pesticides can be deadly to birds (and their food sources), so avoiding their use can help create a healthy environment for them. Instead, consider using natural methods of pest control, such as planting companion plants or using physical barriers.
Keep Cats Indoors: Domestic cats are a major threat to birds, so keeping them indoors is the best option to protect your bird population. If your cats enjoy watching the birds, you may want build a “catio” for them, which is an enclosed outdoor structure, similar to a small screen porch for them to watch and enjoy without the danger of them having one of your favorite songbirds for a snack.
You can create an attractive and bird-friendly environment in your yard, which can provide hours of enjoyment and entertainment as you watch the birds that visit by following the above-mentioned suggestions.
A Deeper Look at Birdwatching
Watching birds can be as involved as you want it to be. One can be a casual observer, or you can take the opportunity to identify and learn about each bird that comes across your feeder. If you watch long enough you can also see some repetitive behaviors in regards to your winged visitors. You can see who nests where, or if they are just passing through. Either way, it provides the opportunity to take a break from the stresses of everyday life.
To some, birdwatching is a “sport” of sorts or at least an enjoyable social activity where you can get together with other bird aficionados and appreciators.
Many serious birdwatchers have a “bird list” of the birds they want to see in their lifetime. They pay attention to migratory patterns of birds, and often make specific journeys to other parts of the state or country for the opportunity to check one of their “ungettable gets” from their list. Spotting and identifying birds can provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, especially when trying to identify rare or elusive species, almost like the ultimate scavenger hunt for birds.
Bird enthusiasts are everywhere, you just need to know when to look. The Kansas City area has many clubs and organizations, tours, or online communities dedicated to our fine feathered friends and the people that seek them out. There are a number of activities and hikes for people to tag along and mingle with other birdwatchers, while looking for an elusive species.
Some suggestions in our area are:
- Burroughs Audobon Society of Greater Kansas City
- Birding Kansas - Audobon Society of Kansas
- Backyard Bird Center 6212 NW Barry Road, Kansas City, MO 64154
- Birds By Birds Kansas City Birding Meetup
In conclusion, birdwatching and providing a safe habitat for your favorite winged wonders in your yard can open yourself and your family for year-round enjoyment! You may even discover a hobby that you want to explore on a deeper level which will put you in the path of other bird lovers too!