Spring Connection – Habitat 101-2 Birds

 More focus on habitat today. Specifically, some of the habitat needs of birds.

 It’s interesting that every creature out there, plant AND animal, has very specific habitat needs. Unlike humans, animals and plants can’t live everywhere. Different species have different requirements for the types of food they eat, and the temperatures their bodies can withstand. They can’t buy food, or a coat, or a swimsuit. And most animals can’t just up and move if they don’t like where they are, or if there is not enough food or water.

One of the many reasons animals disappear from certain areas, or even become extinct is that one (or more) of their habitat requirements isn’t being met.

People love to see birds in their yards, and today I’m focusing on how you can make sure your yard is a place where birds will live, visit and thrive. The following eight tips are from the National Audubon Society. (I have added an explanation – or why – to some of these tips in case you aren’t sure how taking that action will encourage birds to live around your home.)

1. Reduce or eliminate pesticide and herbicide use. By using fewer chemicals in and around your home you will help keep birds, pets and your family healthy. (Fact is, killing creatures that are ‘pests’ in your mind may be eliminating a source of food for the birds! Whether you are killing ants, grubs, worms, spiders, aphids or snails, you are sending the birds elsewhere for lunch. And those weeds you killed may make seeds that the birds also eat! Get a bird guide for information about wild bird diets or ask at your nearest nature store.)

2. Plant native plants. Native flora provides birds with food in the form of fruit and seeds and is home to tasty bugs and spiders. (Birds that are naturally found in your area prefer the food that is naturally found in your area. Choose trees that bear nuts or fruit over those which are strictly ornamental. Your nearest plant store can offer info about this.) 

3. Let your yard get a little messy. Leave snags for nesting places and stack downed tree limbs to create a brush pile, which is a great source of cover for birds during bad weather. (A snag is a dead tree, or a dead limb that remains attached to a tree. Snags become hollow, providing a nesting place for squirrels, and many types of birds. Woodpeckers love the insects drawn to the dead wood, too.)

4. Close your blinds at night and turn off lights you aren’t using. Some birds use constellations to guide them on their annual migrations, and bright lights from windows and sky lights can disrupt their steering senses.

5. Create or protect water sources in your yard. Birds need water to drink and bathe in, just like we do. Be sure to keep birdbaths clean and change the water three times per week when mosquitoes are breeding.

6. Make your windows visible to birds to prevent collisions. Put up screens, close drapes and blinds when you leave the house, or stick multiple decals on the glass (decals need to be no more than two to four inches apart to be effective). (Millions of birds each year die when they fly into the windows of skyscrapers and office buildings, not to mention residential windows.)

7. Identify the non-native invasive plants in your region and work to remove them from your yard. Invasives, in general, don’t provide good food or habitat, and can threaten healthy habitats.

8. Attract hummingbirds with sugar water made by combining four parts hot water to one part white sugar, boiled for one to two minutes. Never use honey, artificial sweeteners, or food coloring. Clean hummingbird feeders with a solution of one part white vinegar to four parts water once a week.

Let 2013 be the year you turn your yard into Disneyland for the birds!
For all sorts of information on the beautiful creatures we know as birds, visit the Audubon website,
www.audubon.org

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