By: Sarah McKillip, Robert Cooper Audubon Society—
Muncie, Indiana may not seem like the ideal place to attract beautiful birds, but with a little know-how and a small investment in supplies, I promise you can have colorful, native birds visiting your home year-round. In many ways, birds are like people in their basic needs, which include three things:
- Nutritious food
Birds eat a variety of foods to make up their daily diet. Seeds form an important part of this diet, and can easily be provided for your bird friends year-round. The best bird seeds to start with are the simplest. Instead of buying a mix, try plain sunflower seed offered in a clean tube, tray, or hopper-style feeder. Although seed mixes are often cheaper, they come with many fillers like millet, which most native birds will brush aside in search of more appealing fare. By contrast, sunflower seed–either black oil or striped–will attract a large variety of birds, including Blue Jays, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, Woodpeckers, and Cardinals. Squirrels also like sunflower seeds, as do non-native house sparrows and starlings, but can be discouraged, if desired, by substituting safflower seed.
To attract additional bird species to your yard, such as American Goldfinches (found year-round) and Indigo Buntings (found in spring and summer), consider offering nyjer or thistle seed in clean tube or sock feeders. Also, suet placed in a wire cage is a good choice for woodpeckers.
Hummingbirds and orioles are favorites in late spring and summer, typically from May to August. To attract these birds, use sweets. Hummingbirds will come to feeders filled with a mixture of one part sugar to four parts water. Instead of purchasing the dyed mixture, I recommend making it at home without red dye, and adding it to a clean hummingbird feeder. The dye is unnecessary because the red parts on the feeder will attract the hummingbirds. For orioles, you can put out fresh orange slices, apple slices, or a teaspoon of jelly.
Having a water source is essential to attracting birds. First, think about where your home is located and if there are any water sources close by. If not, adding a bird bath, especially in the summer, will help attract backyard birds. As with feeders, it is critical to regularly clean bird baths with a non-toxic solution to decrease the risk of bacteria or mildew. Birds can get sick from spoiled food or water, or at the very least, will avoid your backyard feeders altogether.
Birds are constantly on the lookout for predators. To increase the likelihood of backyard bird visitors to your feeders, think about feeder placement. Are there nearby trees or shrubs where the birds could seek refuge? Hanging your feeders in or around trees and shrubs will make your birds feel safer and more at ease while feeding. Ideally, place feeders within three feet of a window, or more than thirty feet away, to help prevent birds from colliding with the glass.
Finally, give it time. If you’ve never put up feeders before, birds need time to discover your feeder. This is true whether you live in the city or the country. During periods of mild weather, birds will scout out local areas for food sources, so be patient.
Good luck and enjoy your new friends!
Sarah McKillip is president of the local Robert Cooper Audubon Society, a 500-member organization affiliated with the National Audubon Society. Meetings are held in Muncie each month at Kennedy Library. Please visit www.cooperaudubon.org for more information. Additional information regarding backyard birds can be found at the Cornell Laboratory website: www.allaboutbirds.org