If you’ve suddenly found yourself with a bit more free time than usual lately and are looking for a new hobby, why not become a backyard birder?
Backyard birding is exactly what it sounds like – watching birds from the comfort of your backyard. It’s peaceful, relaxing, and can even a bit educational if you let it. It’s nature therapy without leaving the house.
So how do you attract birds to your backyard?
Set on two major flyways, the Beaumont area, in general, is very attractive to birds (we see on average 250 different species a year), but there are ways to make your yard, in particular, more desirable. By offering a safe landing spot that satisfies their physiological needs for food, shelter, and water, you can attract more feathered friends and more diversity in species. Here’s how.
Provide a Regular Supply of Food
The first step is to add bird feeders throughout your backyard, but make sure they’re not too close to the house that they feel threatened. Feeders are available in all shapes, styles, and materials. The ideal bird feeder is sturdy enough to withstand the elements and critters, tight enough to keep seeds dry, easy to assemble, and easy to keep clean.
Different species prefer different styles of feeders from trays to tubes, so you’ll have to do some research on what you’re looking to attract. Various birds also prefer different types of food, so if there are a particular species you’re interested in targeting, read up on that or diversify your offerings. Seed and supply companies offer a number of blends of suet, nuts, and fruits to appeal to different species. And don’t forget to clean them regularly so bacteria doesn’t build up and become harmful to the birds.
Offer Easy Access to Water
Next, you’ll want to add a regular supply of clean water for drinking and bathing. Whether you implement a birdbath, fountain, or pond, the sounds of running water attract birds. Most natural water sources that birds use are shallow and near the ground, so while glazed ceramic pedestals may look appealing as backyard decorations, they’re not super functional. Try to find one with a dripper or recirculating pump that catches their attention through movement.
You’ll want to install it in a place where you can see it, but that’s also functional for the birds. Add some rocks on the bottom to provide good footing for bathing, make sure there’s some tree or brush coverage for protection, and that it’s in a shady enough spot they can cool off.
Since birds need water year-round, add a heating element that won’t freeze in winter, which will need to be set up near a hose and electrical outlet. Like the feeders, you’ll need to clean these regularly.
Create a Safe Shelter
After winter migration, birds settle into their permanent homes to begin mating. Oftentimes, they return to the same nesting site year after year, so if you build them a welcoming home, they’ll be more likely to return.
Habitats that offer cover for protection are more desirable for nesting. If your yard is fairly barren, head to the local nursery to plant some trees, shrubs, and bushes. Layered evergreen and deciduous plants are appealing to a number of species and enhance the landscape.
Birdhouses and nest boxes work too, but the more natural they look, the better. You’ll also want to provide access to elements like grass clippings, twigs, pine needles, and mud for them to build their nests. Different species prefer different styles of nests (with varying entrance sizes for protection from predators) so you’ll want to read up on that too. One universal no no is not to have them facing west or in direct sunlight.
Keep a Log
Whether you like doodling or journaling, keep a log of what you observe, documenting the calls and behaviors. Invest in a pair of binoculars with short close-focus distance and a regional field guide to start identifying species. There are two main types of guides: ones that use photographs and ones that use paintings or illustrations, which comes down to personal preference. While keeping a list isn’t necessary, many enjoy tracking what they’ve seen over the years and adding to their “life lists.”
Find Your People
Bird watching can be a solo pursuit, but if you want to connect with the community, there are plenty of other bird watchers in the area to share your sightings, go for a walk, and learn from. Cattail Marsh Wetlands Education Center is a great place to meet other birders and study the common and rare species spotted in the area. If you have any questions or want more information, reach out to the Golden Triangle Audubon Society on Facebook.