Birding – It’s as close as your backyard

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 17, 2012

Unlike most hobbies, backyard birding doesn’t cost a lot, doesn’t take tons of equipment, and doesn’t require that you decipher complicated instructions just to get started. All you need is a backyard or a balcony.

It’s no wonder so many Americans – more than 60 million – are interested in birding. Learning about birds is great exercise for your brain too. Imagine: there are more than 60 kinds of warblers, and that’s just in North America. Whether you live on the West Coast or the East Coast, there are dozens of species you can observe … if you have the right drawing cards.

But be prepared: the birds in your neighborhood, from Western bluebirds to Red-Eyed Vireos, can capture your interest and turn you into a binocular-wielding birder in no time.

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Many birds are accustomed to living near people, so you’ve no doubt glimpsed several species right near your home. And that’s without making any effort. But every bird loves an invitation, even those that are just flying by. Entice more of them into your yard with just a few changes.

Make some new feathered friends

First, try putting up a bird feeder. Most bird feeders attract a variety of birds, and you’ll love seeing them flit past your windows. To get started, watch this video on birding basics. Next, choose the kind of birdseed that will attract a lot of birds. Black oil sunflower seeds, which you can pick up just about anywhere, work well. Depending on where you live, you’ll have cardinals, chickadees and maybe even some showy goldfinches stopping by for a quick snack.

Get a bird guidebook or a smartphone app. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to identify dozens of visitors to your yard in just a few weeks. There are more than 1,000 species of birds in the United States, but bird guides can steer you toward those you’re most likely to see in your region.

Offer amenities – edible berries, bird baths and waterers

Think about growing some plants and flowers that attract birds. Trees and shrubs can provide shelter from predators and great places for nests. Likewise, Juneberries and dogwoods offer edible treats for many species and attract insects that birds like to eat. To attract a particular species, learn what they like: bee balm and trumpet creeper vines, for instance, are great draws for hummingbirds.

Bird baths offer clean drinking water and a chance to have a good overall rinse. By bathing, birds keep their feathers clean and flexible. Just be sure to clean your bird bath regularly; knowing that they will find a healthy drinking source they can also bathe in will keep your feathered buddies coming back again and again. Or, offer them a waterer. Birds can access clean drinking water the same way they access birdseed, with the new line of Perky-Pet bird waterers.

Look into putting up a birdhouse. Most birdhouses are designed for a specific type of bird, so do a little research and then put out the “vacancy” sign. Chances are, it will be quickly filled.

Finally, get out your camera – preferably with a zoom lens. Or just enjoy the view through binoculars. Seeing these birds up close can be a real thrill, especially once you begin to recognize details, like a tuft on the head or a split tail. To bring birds even closer, consider a window feeder from Perky-Pet. Bird watching is safe and fun even up close.