Happy news about animals
It takes just a few simple steps for bird lovers to attract their feathered friends to their yards.
Making some minor adjustments to properties will help attract different varieties of birds, particularly songbirds, according to a press release from Cornell University’s Cooperative Extension. With growing recognition the climate is warming, native plants are the best choice for creating bird-friendly habitats for the future.
According to the press release, native plants are adapted to temperature extremes and are the best bet for future changes, because of their long history with local climates.
The first tip is to provide a water source near protective shrubs during the summer months. On hot days, birds are especially eager to bathe and drink. Bird baths should be only an inch or two deep, with a shallow slope, and a dripping effect will lure more birds. The bath should be mounted on a pedestal if cats prowl the neighborhood, and it should be cleaned once a week with a stiff brush.
“Just have a clean, fresh water drip onto a hollow rock,” said bird enthusiast Betsy Brooks of Alfred.
The second hint is to create a song bird border along the property edge by planting trees and shrubs that meet the needs of birds throughout the year. The best plants to use are those adapted to the weather extremes of the local climate. The border can take the form of a hedge or windbreak, depending on the property size.
Several of each species of plant should be plated next to each other. The tallest plants should be at the edges of the property, and the shorter plants should be located toward the house. One species of thorny tree, such as hawthorn or raspberry, should be provided for nesting. Evergreens, such as spruce, holly or juniper, should be provided for cover. Berry-producing shrubs, such as dogwood, serviceberry or viburnum, should be planted in order to provide fruit throughout the season.
Property owners who want to attract birds should create a brush pile in the corner of their property, consisting of dropped limbs, downed branches and tree trunks. The larger logs should be layered as a foundation, and living brush piles can be created by cutting saplings most of the way through the trunks, then pulling them into a heap. Songbirds will find shelter from extreme weather in these covers throughout the year.
Another tip is to rake leaves under shrubs to create mulch and natural feeding areas for ground-feeding birds, such as sparrows, towhees and thrashers. Earthworms, pill bugs, insects and spiders will thrive in the decomposing leaf mulch, and will readily be eaten by birds.
Brooks said this is important if property owners want to feed birds. She said brush piles also may provide an escape from hawks and other predators.
Property owners should reduce their lawn by at least 25 percent to focus on meadow plants and taller grasses. Tall grasses provide seeds and nesting places for many birds. The meadow should be cut once each year, and should be grown three to four-inches before being cut.
Brooks said having smaller yards means less upkeep, and is much better for birds.
“A yard that is so well manicured isn’t the best thing at all for birds,” she said.
The CCE press release also urges bird lovers to take the “healthy yard pledge” and avoid using lawn pesticides and wasteful sprinklers. It stated, 50 percent of households in the U.S. currently treat their lawns with chemicals that kill around seven million birds per year. The chemicals also may leak into groundwater, wells, streams, lakes and oceans.
Bird lovers should clean out old bird and mouse nests from nest boxes in early spring. If new nest boxes are put out, the property owner should consider the preferred habitat for different species, as well as the size of the entrance hole and the distance above ground. Nesting boxes should face the east in northern latitudes to provide extra warmth. In forests, residents can create a one and one-fourth-inch hole into dead trees four to five-feet off the ground to mimic a woodpecker. The holes can then serve as nests for chickadees and titmice.
Brooks said boxes should be placed in the appropriate places, such as fields and open areas.
In order to ensure cleanliness, property owners should clean bird feeders with a bottle brush and a 10 percent non-chloride bleach solution. The feeders should be rinsed thoroughly and dried in the sun before refilling. Any soggy seed should be raked up from under feeders, because it could grow deadly mold.
“That’s really important,” Brooks said.
She said some birds are sensitive to chloride, and many will refuse to return to a bird feeder that has been cleaned with a chloride solution.
“It’s just a matter of keeping feeders really clean,” she said.
Feeders also should be moved closer to the house to avoid birds flying into windows. If feeders are within three feet of a window, birds are less likely to gather a high momentum when scared, and property owners will be able to see them more closely.
As for what to put in the feeders, Brooks said encouraged use of a variety of seed, especially if more than one bird feeder is available. She said separate feeders will encourage smaller birds to eat, and larger birds won’t eat all the food. She said some ground-feeding birds will eat the seed spilled on the ground under feeders. She said cut oranges can be put out, and will often attract orioles and other colorful birds.
Brooks said hummingbird feeders should be filled with one-part sugar and four-parts water. She said these feeders should be changed once a week, especially when the weather is warm. She said clean, boiled and cooled water should be used, and no red color needs to be used to attract the birds.
Bird lovers should be patient, Brooks said, if they are having problems attracting birds to their yards and feeders. She said if hawks are in the area and scaring away other birds, bird feeders can be taken down for a week or two, until the hawks leave the area.
She said inviting birds to one’s yard is a great way to see and study birds that aren’t easily seen otherwise.
“It’s great entertainment,” she said.
Those interested in learning more about birds may attend meetings of the Allegany County Bird Club. The meetings are usually held at 7 p.m. the first Friday of the month from September through June at the Allegany County office building in Belmont.
“Anybody is welcome to come,” Brooks said.