Establish native plants.
Native plants support birds, in addition to butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects, by providing food, shelter and nesting sites. Native plants are also important for stopover habitat during migration. The good news is that native plants need far less fertilizer and water than their non-native counterparts, thereby reducing your costs!
Use the California Native Plant Society’s Calscape to explore location-specific lists of plants to help you get started, and to document your progress. The UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden is also a good local resource. Their semi-annual plant sales include many types of natives.
Reduce or eliminate pesticide use.
Insects provide the bulk of nutritional needs for many species of birds. Spider webs can provide nesting material. Pesticides can poison birds (and pets and people, too) and kill native insects that are an important food source for birds. Birds help keep insect populations, including those that spread disease, in check.
Install bird feeders to enhance your bird-scaping.
Give birds a boost during winter and migration by offering fresh black oil sunflower seeds, nyger (thistle seed), suet (not recommend for warm weather) and other high-energy foods. Nectar-loving birds will come to nectar feeders and fruit/jelly feeders. Do not add color dyes to nectar feeders.
Don’t forget to clean and maintain your feeders regularly. Seed feeders should be cleaned every 1 to 2 weeks; sugar water should be changed every 3-5 days. Rinsing feeders in a dilute bleach solution after cleaning (no more than 1 part bleach to 9 parts water) will help keep control the bacteria and viruses that can make birds sick. Take your feeders down if you notice sick or dead birds in the area.
More on feeder cleaning to prevent the spread of disease (also from Cornell).
Create a water feature on your property.
Birds get thirsty and many species need water to bathe in. A small bird bath, fountain, or pond can be invaluable to birds during dry spells. Birds are especially attracted to moving and dripping water, but even a simple dish of clean water will work.
Change the water every day to keep it fresh and clean. If algae buildup occurs, scrub the water feature clean and rinse with a weak bleach solution (see above). When providing water for birds, do not add bleach, antifreeze, or any other chemicals.
Water Feature Ideas from Local Birders
Click individual photos to enlarge.
YAS member Steve Hampton has written about his Davis backyard fountain here. It includes wonderful photos of some of the many birds that visit it.
Put up bird houses to encourage nesting.
Many birds nest in cavities, but as our communities become more developed and old snags are removed, natural holes in old trees are few and far between. Competition arises for natural cavities and many native birds lose out.
Each species of bird has different requirements for a suitable next box. Dimensions, placement, protection from predators, and ease of maintenance are just some of the variables that are required for successful habitation. Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great nest box resource page to help you get started.
Keep your cats indoors.
It is estimated that outdoor cats are responsible for 1.3 billion to 4 billion bird deaths each year. This exceeds all other human-related causes of bird mortality combined (window and building strikes, communication towers, vehicles, and pesticide poisoning). Many bird species are already in population decline due to habitat loss, pollution, and climate change.
Not only will keeping your cat inside help protect birds from predation, it will also keep your cat safe from threats like coyotes and other wildlife, motor vehicles, and other dangers.
Become a citizen scientist.
Your observations help scientists understand a changing world.
Submit your birdwatching observations to eBird (www.eBird.org), and participate in nationwide citizen-science projects like the Great Backyard Bird Count, Project FeederWatch and the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Counts.
Join Yolo Audubon.
We depend on memberships and donations from bird lovers just like you to help us provide environmental education, conduct and support conservation research, and protect habitat in our shared communities throughout Yolo county.
Join or donate online at https://yoloaudubon.org/join-renew-donate/.
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