As urban areas become more and more built up, birds and wildlife are increasingly being forced out of their natural habitat. Gardeners can do much to alleviate the plight of birds by putting some thought into planning a garden that will make their feathered friends feel at home. This need not be complicated, and certainly need not be costly, as even a small bird-friendly spot in an urban garden can be a life-sustaining oasis that will more than reward the gardener for his, or her, efforts.
In planning a bird-friendly garden there are a number of points to bear in mind, one of the most important being to provide a clean source of water in a spot where birds have an easy escape route should they be disturbed by a predator, such as the neighborhood tabby. Recent statistics published by the RSPB noted that it is conservatively estimated that cats in the United Kingdom catch up to 55 million birds each year, with the most frequent victims being house sparrows, blue tits, blackbirds and starlings. A birdbath on a stand, placed beneath a tree, allows birds a view of their surroundings while they splash in the water, while giving them a quick escape route into overhanging branches should they feel threatened. Spiny and prickly plants such as holly can be grown around and beneath feeders and bird baths to discouraged cats from lurking there. Ensure that the bird bath is free of algae and filled with fresh water.
When choosing what to plant in your bird-friendly garden, it is best to go indigenous, as this will provide local birds with what they need, when they need it. Of course, birds are very adaptable and will make use of exotic plants as well, if it suits their needs. A good garden center in your area should be able to advise you on what to plant to attract birds, and a mix of indigenous and exotic plants can work well. Give consideration to including plants to provide food such as seeds, nuts, fruit and berries in all seasons, nesting materials and shelter. Food can always be supplemented with strategically placed feeders and nesting boxes are often welcome.
It should go without saying that pesticides should never be used in a bird-friendly garden. Given enough time, nature will take care of its own pests, and until ecological balance is reached, gardeners may need to put some extra effort into controlling pests organically and removing them by hand. Birds are great at keeping creepy-crawlies in check, so invite them into your garden and enjoy their company, while they enjoy the safe haven you have provided.
There is no better way to decorate your garden than with a collection of wild birds that bring color and song to the trees and landscaped areas. Luring a variety of birds to a garden is not always as easy as it may sound. Most birds know exactly what they like and will travel to an area where they know they can eat their preferred seed or form of food. Fortunately, if you know what birds you want to attract, you can purchase the seeds and items that draw these species into your garden.
It is important to fill a variety of bird feeders and place them in different locations throughout the garden. This way birds will not be fighting to get to the food and a greater number of birds will frequent the feeders. Putting out their favorite foods is the best way to ensure that they will continue to return, and in winter bird feeders assist a great number of birds to survive the cold weather. Wild birds will not usually eat artificial pellets or processed seeds as they are not accustomed to them, so natural seeds are the key.
Sunflower seeds are generally a safe bet, as a wide variety of birds will eat them, such as chickadees, nuthatches, finches, cardinals, grosbeaks, sparrows, blackbirds, jays, woodpeckers and titmice. All these birds, with the exception of the sparrows, blackbirds, jays and woodpeckers, will also eat Safflower seeds. When trying to lure ducks, geese, mourning doves and quails, cracked corn will do the trick; and woodpeckers, titmice and chickadees are also known to eat unsalted peanuts. Nyjer (or Thistle) will attract redpolls, doves and pine siskins; while orioles, thrushes and hummingbirds prefer nectar. Fruit is another option to use in combination with seeds as mockingbirds, bluebirds, thrushes, cedar waxwings and orioles will enjoy the treat. The preferred food for juncos and towhees is millet. Setting out a mixture of seeds, fruits and nectar will have any garden filled with birds in no time, allowing home owners to enjoy the beauty of these winged creatures and relax to the melodies of their cheerful songs.
The most terrifying experience for a bird owner is to have their beloved pet bird escape and fly away. Fears for their well-being and safety are overwhelming. Equally difficult to deal with is finding a lost bird in your garden and not knowing how to care for it until alternative arrangements can be made, or the original owners can be found. Not everyone has a spare bird cage lying around the house, and if the bird was able to make it to its new destination, the chances of him flying off again are pretty good.
Lost birds are often found near homes as they are scared and confused by their unfamiliar surroundings, and over and above the fear of not knowing how to return home, they are hungry and thirsty. One can almost always lure a pet bird into your home or near enough to place a towel over them for capture with food, water, calling and a lot of patience. Once captured, it is essential to remember the basic needs of a bird and to reduce stress as it can be fatal. Trying to touch the bird or befriend it can cause an aggressive reaction, which is due to the stress of a new environment and fear.
It is suggested that a lost bird be placed in a small bathroom or unused room, without a lot of noise and disturbance, where it is able to relax and feel safe. Any room should be made bird friendly, by removing any toxic bottles, closing all toilets and taking away any item that could be damaged by the bird through chewing on it. Birds are also more comfortable if they are perched and with food and water be placed near to where they perched. A backed chair can be useful in this regard. Getting down to a pet shop to get a packet of seeds is recommended, but if that is not an option, fruits, unsalted nuts, vegetables and cooked pasta (without sauce or seasoning) can also be offered. Foods to stay away from, which can cause serious harm to a bird, include onions, alcohol, avocado and chocolate. If a bird is not perching itself or it is suspected that the bird might be injured, the assistance of a veterinarian is strongly advised. The reunion between a grateful owner and lost pet is always worth the effort.
Garden birds come in large varieties and knowing a bit more about them will make watching them that much more interesting. To identify garden birds in your area use a region specific garden bird guide. For example if you are living in Britain, use a British bird field guide.
The most common garden birds you will find are of the passerine group. Passerines are perching birds and song birds which have three toes pointing forward and one pointing back. Passerines that are commonly seen in gardens include sparrows, thrushes, mynahs, crows, wagtails, chaffinches, goldfinches, magpies, starlings, bulbuls, weavers and more. Weaver’s nests are often easily spotted hanging from the outer branches of trees. It is fascinating to watch the male hard at work building his nest. Thrushes can often be seen darting around under bushes in search of insects. Beware of magpies as they are known as the kleptomaniacs of the avian world. Details on specific garden bird species can be found in a good field guide.
The other group of garden birds are the non-passerines. These are non-perching birds. Non-passerines that may be spotted in the garden are pigeons, doves, woodpeckers, hoopoes, parrot species, swifts, owls, cuckoos, lapwings, various smaller birds of prey and so on. Obviously the size of your property will determine the types of garden birds that will be seen. Doves and pigeons will probably be the most likely species of non-passerine that you will see as they often frequent garden bird feeders.
Garden birds can be enticed to your garden by a ready supply of food, bearing in mind that different species have different preferences. Likewise, many bird feeders are available to attract various types of birds, and a bird bath is always a welcome addition to a garden. By providing such accessories you will open up a delightful opportunities to view and identify birds in your own garden.
The Black-Capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapilla) is one of the most popular bird species in North America. This cute little bird with its cheerful hop can be seen frequenting bird feeders throughout the year. A marvelous little bird, the Black-Capped Chickadee has a number of fascinating behaviors and is a delight in any garden. Living throughout Canada, the range of the Black-Capped Chickadee extends from Newfoundland through to British Columbia and up to Yukon all across the North-west Territories. Be sure to look out for this lively bird when in those areas.
The Black-Capped Chickadee is a small bird species measuring about 5 inches, or 12 cm. They have a short bill and distinctive black crown and bib with bright white cheeks. The upper parts of the bird are gray whilst the wing coverts are edged in white. A rusty color marks the flanks whilst the underparts are gray-white. Black-Capped Chickadees have complex calls, forming their own language. Chickadees travel in small flocks and have a distinctive hierarchy. The more aggressive the bird, the higher the bird’s rank. High ranking birds receive privileges such as the best food, safest areas and they tend to have greater survival rates. Pairing also takes place according to rank.
Foraging begins at sunrise for Black-Capped Chickadees. Hopping along through the trees the little birds seek out tasty creatures in all the little cracks and holes. Their diet includes insect eggs, larvae, weevils, sawflies and other little creatures. During summer and fall, the Black-Capped Chickadees begin storing food, hiding it under bark, in lichen patches and so forth. These remarkable birds are able to remember thousands of hiding spots. In colder times they will dine on seeds which provide more energy.
Black-Capped Chickadee courtship begins in February and March. Slowly the flock pairs off in search of a nesting place. Males rigorously defend the area against intruders. The nest is made in a hole that the pair dig in a dead stump or rotting wood. The female chickadee will lay 5 to 10 eggs. Incubation lasts 13 to 14 days, and within 16 to 17 days, the young Black-Capped Chickadees can leave the nest, while being fed by their parents for another 2 to 3 weeks.
Black-Capped Chickadees are great garden pest controllers and friendly creatures to have around, so why not make efforts to protect this hardy bird species.