Birdwatching in your backyard: how to start?
Birdwatching is a great hobby, and even better, one you can practice from your own backyard. All you have to do is just look outside your window and enjoy. Easy as that! Or isn’t it? If your backyard isn't ready, chances are you won't see many birds. Some preparations are needed to make your garden bird-ready. But there is no need to worry: there are just a couple of things you need to start birdwatching.
Different feeders and the right food
The first thing you need to do is start offering bird food. Most birds spend large amounts of their days looking for food. Placing one or multiple feeders will certainly make your backyard more attractive to them.
You could just place a random feeder in your garden and buy some generic bird food. Chances are you will attract some birds this way. But putting some extra time and effort in this process will be definitely rewarding. Knowing more about local birds helps you better 'serve' them.
Do you know which birds live in your area? Try monitoring them from your garden or a local park for a while, or do some online research. Gathering information about your local feathered friends will help you attract them to your garden. Find out what food the regional birds like and how you can offer that specific food in the best way. Some birds prefer to be fed from the ground, while others like a place a bit higher. If you want to attract as many different birds as possible, it’s important to offer multiple kinds of seeds and other bird food. But maybe there are just some specific species of birds you would like to attract? Knowledge about local birds helps you attract the ones you love and discourage the ones you could live without. This could prevent a large presence of the peskier kind of birds, for example.
A good thing to remember as well is that most birds need change during the year. In the winter months, for example, they are in need of fats. Those cold winter days require a lot of calories to survive! Offering suet, millet or peanut butter is typically something you would do during the coldest months of the year. It will attract more birds to your garden and will help them survive winter. In the summertime, however, birds are more in need of water and fruits. Of course, they will still need some more nutritious food too, especially the baby birds that are growing so fast during this season. Mealworms are a good and healthy addition to the different seeds you can offer at this time of the year.
A place to build a family
Putting up some nesting boxes in your garden is a very smart thing to do when you want to start bird watching. Offering birds a place to make a home and expand their family will not only help them to expand their population, it will also provide you with many hours of bird watching pleasure.
Make sure to do some research, as each species of birds have their own requirements when it comes to their nests. Some birds like to be alone, and won’t occupy a nest box when there are other birds living close by. Other birds prefer company and will choose your nesting box only when there are neighbors of their own species around. Of course, you will have to keep in mind the size of the different birds too, and offer nests with hole sizes that fit them. Most birds prefer nests with holes as small as possible for their size. This way, they will know there won’t be any intruders larger than them. A smart way to stay safe.
Looking forward to seeing baby birds in your garden this spring? Make sure to start your preparations on time! Birds will explore their neighborhood during fall and winter, so they know exactly where to stay as soon as the breeding season starts. The sooner you start your preparations, the better. Many small birds use birdhouses as a hiding place when danger is around. So don’t be disappointed when there’s no breeding activity in your nests; you’re still offering a safe place for the more vulnerable birds, which will increase the chances of them visiting your garden.
Make your garden green
To attract more birds to your garden, think like a bird. Of course, food and a nice place to stay are important. But there’s more! Which garden would be more attractive to the average bird when flying around in the air? The one that’s completely covered with tiles? Or the one that looks nice and green from above?
The reason most birds will choose the green garden isn't just because it looks nicer. Birds are smart and they know a green garden has a lot of benefits for them. While a garden full of tiles doesn't offer much for snacking, those filled with grass provide plenty of food. Here they will find little insects and worms, which are very tasty and nutritious snacks for most birds. Even replacing a small amount of tiles with grass in your garden can make a big change in attracting birds.
Apart from grass, many birds will appreciate all other things green. Trees are perfect places to sit on and observe the neighborhood. They also provide a great place to stay safe from cats, for instance. Choosing a tree that bears fruit or other delicacies is a double win. Birds are used to find their food in nature, so why not offer them a bit extra? They will surely appreciate it and reward your garden with extra visits.
Make sure to also place some nice plants in your garden. Especially the ones that will produce berries are very popular amongst birds. It’s a good idea to do some research and find plants that will produce berries in different seasons. This way, your garden will be popular all year round. Keep in mind that plants could also be excellent places to hide. Let them grow a bit wild, so birds will have lots of opportunities to find a safe place to sit for a while. It will make your backyard extra attractive.
Most important: patience
In the list of things you need to start birdwatching from your backyard, one thing shouldn't be forgotten: patience.
Even when you follow all of the above tips and tricks, chances are your garden won’t be a very popular spot for birds at first. Birds will need some time to notice all the time and effort you took to make your garden bird friendly. You could speed up this process by scattering some bird seeds on the ground, making it easier for birds to notice a new place to find food. But even then, it might take some time before large groups of birds discover and like to hang out in your garden.
Birds don’t handle changes very well, due to their vulnerability. The world can be a dangerous place for such small animals so they will always be extremely careful. You will probably notice them flying around for a bit first, observing the place and getting a good first impression about its safety. When everything appears to be fine, they might stay a bit longer, preferably sitting in a place that’s known to them to be relatively safe, like a tree. From here, they can observe longer and better, and they might even decide to make a quick stop at one of your feeders.
It can take days, weeks, or even months for birds to truly trust your backyard as a safe place to eat and spend some time. Let them take their time and make sure you don’t change too much in the meantime. Any change you make, by placing an extra feeder or moving your feeders around, for example, could make this process even longer.
A nice way to keep an eye on the birds slowly getting to know and trust your garden is by installing a bird feeder that has a camera. By using these feeders, you can observe birds without disturbing them, even when you’re not at home. You will get notifications on your phone as soon as a bird visits the feeder. This will not only give you some great pictures of your feathered friends, it will also give you the opportunity to study their behavior. Initially, you might notice that the birds look a bit nervous and stay on the feeder for only a short time. As time passes by and they start trusting your garden and your feeder more and more, the visits will keep getting longer, while the birds will get less nervous. At this point the fun will really begin, and a new hobby has been born.