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    Start Backyard Birding with Christopher Joe

    Authored by Christopher Joe of Connecting with Birds and Nature, LLC.

    Growing up in a neighborhood surrounded by woods, it was no surprise to wake up in the morning to the sound of birds. We had a big yard with trees that varied from pine to cedar and one large fig tree. We were attracting birds and didn’t even know it. Blue Jays, American Robins and even Red-bellied Woodpeckers showed up. We had great natural habitat that supported the variety of birds. My family loved to see what birds visited the yard. As you can tell, my love for birds and nature was started at an early age.

    The activity of feeding birds goes back as far as the late 1880s and became common practice around the 1980s. The first recorded use of the term birdwatcher was in 1891. Most birdwatchers pursue this activity for recreation. People even join groups and adopted the term ‘birders’ as a noun. Whether you are using your eyes, or the finest optics money can buy, the point to me is just enjoy them.

    Backyard birding essentials

    When we moved into our new house in June 2021, I knew I was going to make an area designated strictly for backyard birding. I put up our first feeder station 11/4/2021. Three days later our first birds started showing up. Backyard birding on a small scale scratched that initial itch I had for birdwatching. I was reminded of those childhood bird watching experiences in the yard.

    “But Chris, how do you get them to show up?” I thought you’d never ask.

    It’s important to use different feeders. This variety will increase your chances to attract different birds. Hopper, tube, platform, and suet cages are popular types of feeders you can find. Even throwing seeds on the ground works. Some birds are more apt to using a certain type of feeder, so it’s important to give them options. Just like you eat different dishes, birds like to do the same.

    Feeder placement is just as important as your feeders. I place my feeders near cover, but away from branches. Squirrels and other non-targeted critters will leap on them. I take advantage of brush areas. The brush provides natural cover, allowing birds escape and cover from hawks and other predators.

    “But Chris, I don’t have a big backyard.” No worries there. You can use the space you have. They even make bird feeders that attach to windows and window seals, perfect for small spaces or even apartment windows.

    Birds eat a variety of items, including seeds, berries, fruit, nuts, and insects. Some birds even dine on other birds, eggs, small mammals, fish, buds, larvae, aquatic invertebrates, aquatic vegetation, grain, dead animals, garbage, meal worms and much more. During the spring and summer months, most songbirds eat mainly insects and spiders. Winter months can be hard on birds to find food. Offering high energy seed and suet can give them the boost they need. I admit this is a wide variety.  Start small and continue to grow. Determine your personal capacity and area to see how you want to proceed.

    Choosing the right seed can take some trial and error. If you could only get one bag of seed, try an extreme variety. Sunflower seed, millet, peanuts, safflower seed, mixed feed nuts, and various dried fruits are all great options. A wide range of seeds used with various types of feeders will attract more birds than you imagined to your area.

    I recommend adding a water source to your feeding station. The water will draw birds in for a quick drink and bath

    Backyard bird identification

    Identifying your visiting birds goes hand in hand with your backyard feeders. Find a good field guidebook, such as Peterson Field Guide. There are even apps on your phone like Merlin Bird ID to help you become more knowledgeable in recognizing and tracking your backyard birds. I love seeing a new bird and going to your guide to positively identify it. Since I’ve started my backyard birding adventure, I’ve seen the following species seen at my feeder station:

    • Northern Cardinal
    • House Finch
    • Blue Jay
    • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
    • Chipping Sparrow
    • Carolina Chickadee
    • Red-winged Blackbird
    • Mourning Dove
    • Tufted Titmouse
    • Eurasian Collared-Dove
    • Brown-headed Cowbird
    • American Goldfinch
    • Common Grackle

    You are well on your way to backyard birding. Birding has helped me take my family’s farmland and make a destination for birders from across the country. I’ve utilized bird feeders to make an area visiting birders can pass the time as they prepare to go on a tour. Birdwatching can be relaxing and relieves stress. Use these tips and you’ll be surprised at who shows up for a visit.