For the Birds: Eighty Yard Birds and Counting…

Friday, September 28, 2012

Purple Finch, male at back feeder
Photo by Christine Southwick

Eighty Yard Birds and Counting...
By Christine Southwick

What you may ask, defines a yard bird?  And how do you entice birds to your yard?

Any bird I can see (or positively ID by call) from my yard I consider a yard bird. The Osprey, Bald Eagle, Common Raven, and Great Blue Heron that fly over my yard are considered yard birds. The Mallard which lands in my next door neighbor’s grass, that I see and hear from my yard, is a yard bird. All the migrants that stop for water, food, and rest, and all the residents that live and raise their young in my yard are yard birds.

Fox Sparrow at heated bird bath
Photo by Christine Southwick

My yard was a blank slate when we moved in twelve years ago—dandelions, grass, and a corner bush.  We started filling it with rhododendrons, native trees, native bushes with fruit for wildlife, and cutting flowers for hummingbirds (and inside flower arrangements).  That first year, I had about ten species of yard birds, mostly due to the greenbelt behind the yard.

Rufus Hummingbird
Photo by Christine Southwick

I added feeders, and bird baths. I installed bird houses for young, which I clean out every September (mid-spring too, if the house was used for an early, or failed brood). I have two brush piles that cannot be seen from the house. I’ve planted ferns for additional cover. I have dragged fallen snags from neighborhood sidewalks, and beg people repeatedly for wood chips, and maple leaves. Within twelve years, I have returned a scorched-earth area to a mostly wild area in the far back of my yard.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon
Photo by Christine Southwick

I have selected native plants, shrubs, and trees that serially provide berries/fruits for birds, and trees that host the kinds of micro bugs that warblers prefer. But the real draw has been the dripping, moving water set-up of bird baths that I described in my last article. They come down to drink, where I can see them.

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Photo by Christine Southwick

Most delightful yard birds: American Goldfinches, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Bushtits, Anna’s & Rufus Hummingbirds, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets;

Best skulkers: (needing wild leaf-litter areas) Spotted Towhees, Fox Sparrows, Varied Thrushes ;

Five woodpecker yard: Pileated, Hairy, and Downy Woodpeckers, Red-breasted Sapsucker, N. Flicker;

Snag-hole nesters: those five woodpeckers, chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches,  Brown Creepers;

Most unusual yard birds: Black-throated Gray Warblers, MacGillevray’s Warblers, Barred Owls

So put out the welcome mat—water, food, space for birds to thrive and to raise their young.

                                                   How many birds can you attract?

Christine Southwick is on the Board of the Puget Sound Bird Observatory and is their Winter Urban Color-banding Project Manager. She is a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat Steward, having completed their forty hour class. We're happy that she is sharing her expertise with us about the birds in our backyards.

For previous For the Birds columns, click on the link under the Features section on the main webpage.


Anonymous,  September 28, 2012 at 8:32 AM  

Great article! Christine - are the heated bird baths hard to keep up?

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