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Backyard birds make for hours of enjoyment

John Clifford
Posted 3/29/23

So, you’re thinking of ways to make your backyard more attractive to birds so you can sit on your deck with your coffee early in the morning and watch them.

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Backyard birds make for hours of enjoyment


So, you’re thinking of ways to make your backyard more attractive to birds so you can sit on your deck with your coffee early in the morning and watch them.

Research shows that the most important rule for attracting birds to your yard is “less is better.”

Emma Greig, who is the head of Project FeederWatch at Cornell Lab of Ornithology, says that the easiest thing to do is let your yard get messy. There’s no need to spend any money.

“Leaving your yard messy,” says Greig, “sometimes with dead leaves, grass or maybe some dead flowers from last season will allow all kinds of little creatures to grow in your yard.”

All kinds of songbirds will be attracted to your backyard if you have all these small creatures growing there, because birds like to eat all of them.

Before you start growing out the grass on your property, you might want to call your local codes department to find out how long your grass can get before it becomes a violation.

In Rome, city code enforcement officer Greg Shaver said the maximum height of grass is eight inches.

We all feel the need to get rid of every leaf left over from the previous season, so do what suits your landscaping taste.

What might fly into your yard if your yard is a little overgrown and you still have some green waste from last year? You might think dozens and dozens of species would fly into your piece of bird heaven. Armed with 35 years of data collected by Project FeederWatch Greig said, “On average, about a dozen different species” will regularly visit your backyard.

FeederWatch is a November-April survey of birds that visit backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North America. Project FeederWatch runs through April 30, but people can still signup with kits for the next season going out in the fall. Now that spring is here, Greig encourages people to participate in NestWatch.

NestWatch is a nationwide nest monitoring program designed to track status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds. It is easy to do and anyone can participate.

“You monitor the nest, (and) even if it (nest) fails, you report it on the (Cornell) NestWatch site,” said Greig.

Most of us like to put out bird feed of some sort, squirrels be damned. Greig says that the best bird food is black oil sunflower seeds. One idea Grieg suggested for fending off squirrels from attacking your expensive bird feed is that you can “put cracked corn on a stump or on the ground” to redirect headstrong squirrels. Cracked corn is relatively inexpensive compared to black oil sunflower seeds.

Pesticides are the biggest thing you shouldn’t do in your yard, even if you want it to look perfect. If you use chemicals to kill all the little creatures, like spiders, it will be hard to attract a healthy number of bird species to your slice of earth.

Greig joyfully encourages us to “let those little spiders run around.”

In the end, “increasing the plant biodiversity” by leaving some patches of long grass and uncollected leaves and green debris is the only cardinal rule for attracting birds to your backyard.

“Everything works together,” enthusiastically concludes Greig.


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