Birds want to live as close to their feeding grounds as possible. They hate to commute as much as we do! Provide a variety of under-story shrubs and small trees that make safe neighborhoods for our winged friends. These can be augmented with birdhouses for different types of birds. These range from the multi-story condos for swallows and martins (which are great mosquito gobblers) like the 4-storey "condos" to a half walnut shell for hummingbirds.
Except for purple martins and swallows, do not expect to have more than one family of the same type of bird within viewing distance of each other. They just don't get along. The first one in will harass the newcomers and you will end up with only one tenant.
Bird houses or roosting pockets for individual bird families should face east, west or south - never north. They should be far enough away from any structure, eave overhang or tree to prevent a climbing predator from reaching them. Bird Houses made of natural materials attract a wider variety of nesting songbirds.
The Watering Hole
Water is vital for wild birds all year round. Water sources should be placed fairly close to your feeders. Providing water is the very best way to attract birds to your yard. Yes, birds are more attracted to water in your yard than by food! In addition, water brings out many interesting antics to watch. You will see birds sipping, seriously grooming their feathers and splashing and playing. Classic pedestal birdbaths attract a wide variety of birds.
Locate the bath within six feet of a tree or tall shrub to give birds a place to fly to if a threat like the neighbor's cat disturbs them while bathing or drinking. Make sure it is not near any hiding places where cats and other predators may lurk. Bird baths can be on a pedestal, hanging, laid flat on the ground or attached, for example, to a deck rail.
Be sure your bath is not too deep. The deepest point should be 2-1/2" or less. It's best if the edge of the bath is not slippery so that birds can have sure footing.
Bath water should be changed every few days, no matter what the season, to insure a fresh, clear supply. It is important to keep your bath clean. Washing the bath with water and white vinegar will help prevent algae growth and keep the bath fresh. Bath brushes and special bath and fountain protection solutions are available to help keep baths sparkling clean and safe for birds.
Moving water fascinates and attracts birds. Outfitting your bath with a dripper or mister like Misters or Drippers will attract a wider variety of birds. In warm weather a mister will be attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies too!
Cold weather in northern climates brings a special challenge to survival because
natural water sources are often frozen. Providing ice-free water for
drinking and feather maintenance can be life-saving for birds. Water sources
may be kept ice-free by an immersible electric heater that goes right into
the birdbath water. Baths with built in heating are also available - some
deck-mounted too, for easy viewing. They let you enjoy the birds through your
windows all winter.
Cedars are one of the best shrubs or trees to provide a safe haven in all types of weather. The rule of thumb is to plant at least one large evergreen shrub or tree for every five to ten deciduous ones. As with any planting, plant shrubs in odd numbered groups of three to five - making sure that you have both male and female shrubs where applicable, so that they will set fruit. Plant varieties that provide fruit at different times of the year.
Large arbors and trellises, and vines growing over them provide a safe
location for fledglings who wait to be fed by the parents, and when getting
their first flying lessons. Locate these within ten to 12 feet from
the feeder and birdbath.
In late fall when cover becomes scarce, you can build a safe haven with dead branches that you've collected from your pruning efforts. Start with a base of hefty ones laid in two rows at right angles to each other - as if you were building a campfire. Then add upright ones - the largest first, and finishing with the smaller ones. It will look like tent when complete. Click the thumbnail of the diagram to see the larger view. Weeping trees - mulberry, willow, etc. also provide cover if the branches reach the ground.
And, after Christmas, don't throw out your tree! Prop it up
against a fence and adorn it with suet and seed balls for a tasty retreat
for our winged friends.