Pets are a big responsibility... and one I can't in good conscience commit to right now. They require stability, time, space, and money. We're a little thin in some of those spots at the moment, but we still feel the emptiness that only pets can fill. We have a pet-sized hole in our lives.* So in the meantime, we have birds. Or more specifically, we feed birds. Wild birds to be exact... lots and lots of them.
Raise your hand if you get teary during the "Feed The Birds" montage in Mary Poppins...
While our fine feathered friends seem to eat their weight in food every day, a big sack of seed every couple of months is still cheaper than vet bills and designer doggy duds. Plus, they're the easiest pets ever (not even goldfish are this easy). Admittedly, as far as pets go, wild birds score pretty low on the snuggle-factor, but they rate very high on the amusement scale.
A Sound Garden
All of our bird visitors, large and small, have made our garden come alive with movement and activity... the kind you just can't get with whirligigs and weather-vanes. I tend to think that good landscaping should incorporate movement and sound, and indeed engage all our other basic senses as well. Like movement, sound is an element that often gets forgotten, but a yard that's atwitter with birdies, is a garden complete. Just hearing them out there chirping and chattering away makes me happy. I call that "cheep" therapy. Want to get in on all the action? Here are some tips that have worked for us...
Basic Steps For Attracting & Feeding Birds
- Get a bag of wild birdseed mix and a feeder (doesn't need to be fancy).
- Put the feeder in a "safe" location, somewhere without a lot of traffic. Wild birds can be skittish.
- Fill the feeder with the birdseed and wait. Wait some more. It was well over a month for ours saw action.
- Birds are attracted to water. If possible, put up a bird bath or a small trickling fountain.
- No place for a feeder? Scatter the seed on flat rocks, bricks, concrete or other surface where they won't sprout if they don't get eaten right away (you want to feed birds, not grow crops). Some birds even prefer ground-feeding.
- Keep your bag of seed closed tight with a rubber band or transfer it to a container with a lid. This is especially true for the black sunflower seeds (we're feeding birds here, not mice).
- Squirrels can be a problem at feeders in some areas as they too enjoy eating seeds. They're fun to watch though (and hard to outsmart), so call it a squirrel-feeder and enjoy the show.
A lot of the birds that visit our yard are primarily bug-and/or-berry-eaters, not seed-crackers. I am personally quite grateful to any and all bug-eating birds and welcome them to my yard at any time. The berry-eaters… I'm not so sure (wink!). As far as our "Front-Yard Diner" seed-eatin' regulars go, here's the current lineup...
- California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
- American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis
- Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
- House Finch, Carpodacus mexicanus
- Western Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
- Dark-Eyed Junco ("Oregon" and "Slate-colored" forms), Junco hyemalis
- House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
- White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
- Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
- Oak (or Plain) Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
- Eurasian Collared-Dove, Streptopelia decaocto (maybe African Collared-Dove, Streptopelia roseogrisea)
- Brewer's Black Bird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
- Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus [these are, uh... not exactly indigenous]
What kind of birds are in your neighborhood? If you're not sure, there are tons of books and websites out there about backyard (or front-yard) birding. Here are a few helpful links to get you started...
- Tips for identifying birds
- Tips for attracting and feeding birds
- Bird ID tool and other info
- The Great Backyard Bird Count