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February 22, 2011

Five Fast Ways to Attract Birds

Planting bird-friendly trees and shrubs or installing an in-ground water garden with features designed to bring in the birds can take time to produce the desired results.  But there are plenty of quick - and inexpensive - things you can do to put out the welcome mat almost instantly.  Jump in right now and see how you can boost the bird population in your yard or space with these five fast ways to attract birds:

1. Hang a tube feeder.
Tube feeders are available at bird specialty stores (Wild Birds Unlimited, Wild Bird Center, etc.), hardware and farm supply stores, and home centers, as well as many pet stores and, at least seasonally, at discount retailers (Walmart, Target, etc.).  Get one to start, along with a supply of sunflower seed to fill it.  Black oil sunflower attracts the greatest variety of birds, but any sort of sunflower seed will draw birds to the tube.  If your new tube feeder will hang in a place where cast-off sunflower hulls may pose a problem, avoid the mess by filling it up with shelled, or hulled, sunflower seeds. 

2. Set out water.
Water features for birds can be elaborate or they can be very simple.  If you have a casserole or shallow bowl that you've never liked, you can donate it to the birds, and do a good deed while getting rid of something you've always hated at the same time.  Set it out, fill it with water, add a few pebbles to help the birds find a perch, and voila!

3.  Grow a nectar plant.
Columbines, trumpet vine, cleome (spiderflower), impatiens, nasturtiums, annual red salvia, cardinal flower, rose-of-Sharon, snapdragons, coral honeysuckle (what I grow), cannas, bee balm (monarda), zinnias, and many other nectar rich plants are especially good hummingbird attractors.  Add a few of these hummingbird flowers to your garden - or to a container to two on your deck or patio - and see how many hummingbirds you can bring in. 

4.  Add a hummingbird feeder.
From the ruby-throated hummingbird on the East Coast to the many species in Texas, the Southwest, and the West Coast, it's easy to attract these flying jewels to your yard if you set up a nectar feeder.  You can buy ones ranging from standard plasic feeders to handcrafted glass and ceramic versions, or make your own from recycled soda bottles

5.  Set out some fruit.
Half an orange, apple slices, a piece of melon, an overripe peach, a handful of berries - birds love fruit as much as we do.  Set some out on a plate (a plastic plate or even a piece of cardboard is fine) and watch the birds and butterflies come over for dessert!  You can also attract orioles by hanging half an orange from an oriole or fruit feeder, readily available in bird specialty stores.  (Some feeders even come with cups for jelly as well as hooks for fruit!).  Or make your own: Pierce the rind of an orange half by running a skewer through the fruit parallel to the cut side.  Then make a hanger from a length of twine, knotting it securely on each end of the skewer.  Hang the skewered fruit from a branch or hook.

National Bird Feeding Month.

Bird feeding leads to bird conservation.

Quirks of the backyard bird.

Put a little life in your lawn.

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