Attracting Birds to your Yard

Even though our South Carolina winters are milder than those experienced by our Northern friends and relatives, many Seabrook Island residents especially enjoy watching birds in our back yards during the winter.   It can, however, be a year round activity.   To increase the number of feathered friends in your yard, there are various things you can do.   The first thought of most people is to install feeders in their yards.  Since different birds like different foods, most people know there are a variety of foods available.  Maybe not so obvious is that different bird species are prevalent at different times of the year so the feed used may also be varied throughout the year.  Information in the Types of Bird Feed section  below was gathered from various web sites and provide a description of the various types of bird feed, the common Seabrook Island birds they attract, and when they should be used.

To attract the greatest variety of birds to your yard, provide several different feeder types that offer a variety of foods. You’ll find that some species are more likely to use one kind of feeder over another. The main types of feeders described by Cornell Lab’s All About Birds – How to Choose the Right Kind of Feeder site are:

  • Tray or Platform Feeders
  • Hopper or “House” Feeders
  • Window Feeders
  • Tube Feeders
  • Nyjer Feeders
  • Suet Feeders
  • Nectar or Hummingbird feeders

In addition to providing feed, birds also need a dependable supply of fresh, clean water for drinking and bathing. Putting a birdbath in your yard may attract birds that don’t eat seeds and wouldn’t otherwise come to your feeders.  Again, Cornell Lab’s All About Birds – Attract Birds with Birdbaths provides good descriptions of various types.

American Robins enjoying a drink from the birdbath – C Moore

As it states, contrary to popular belief, birds often prefer shallow baths close to the ground similar to puddles in nature.  A tray as you would put under a terra cotta pot is an inexpensive but effective alternative / addition to the traditional pedestal bird bath.

It is important for birds’ health and pleasure to frequently clean both feeders and water supplies.  This may require disposal of feed that is no longer healthy.

Habitat is also important to encourage birds.  Wild birds live in a great variety of habitats.

Yellow-rumped Warbler – Ed Konrad

The greater variety or diversity that you create in your backyard can attract more species of wild birds.  Wild birds feel more secure if they have shelter to protect themselves from the elements and predators. Trees and large shrubs are welcome as places to raise and protect their young.  Also consider plants and foliage that produce berries, seeds, fruits, nuts, sap and nectar for year round food, as well as to provide nesting materials.  Shrubs and trees should be selected that are dense enough to support nests, but so birds can move freely among the branches to escape from predators.   Native plants are recommended by many sites.  Plants with red flowers, of course, are known to attract hummingbirds.

Finally, to encourage desirable birds in your backyard, you need to take care to discourage “bully birds” that scare the other birds away or simply eat all the food before the desirable birds can visit.

If you want to become more comfortable identifying those birds at your feeder, Cornell Lab has an online course Feeder Birds: Identification and Behavior.

Types of Bird Feed Continue reading “Attracting Birds to your Yard”