Welcoming Backyard Birds

By Heather Cherry

Backyard birds on a fence

Spring is here. Birds have already begun to migrate back to their respective homes for the summer months. The myth goes that spring has finally sprung when the American Robin is out. If you live in northern states though, spring probably hasn't delivered much more than blistering temperatures and snowflakes. The first day of spring for many was more white than green.

When birds are migrating they typically are low on food and supplies to build their nest. Sprinkle some seeds out so your fluttering friends will not go hungry. Sunflower seeds are a great alternative to wild bird seed. It is a delicate treat for birds. Wild birds will often eat sunflower seeds along with their wild seed, berries and insects.

Remember to put some nest building tools out too. Nesting material refers to anything a bird can use to construct their home. Different types of birds create different nests. Some may be built with sticks and straw like the American Robin, where others may be more elaborate like the Village Weaver hanging nest. The size and shape is unique to the different breed of bird. The important aspect of the nest is to create a safe haven that allows a cushioned place for eggs to incubate. The nest also allows the family of birds to gather together for heat efficiency and protection from many predators.

In the next couple of weeks as you are spring cleaning your home, don't throw away what seems like garbage but might make a home for birds. Gather items together and recycle them with nature so mother bird won't have to stray too far from her family to search for supplies.

Some nest construction supplies that can help birds might include:

  • Twigs
  • Sticks
  • Leaves
  • Yarn
  • Dental floss
  • Shredded paper
  • Pebbles or small rocks
  • Straw
  • Broom bristles
  • Mop string
  • Cotton balls

The material can be draped over trees, shrubs or other landscaping. You can even fill a bird house with the materials and seeds to ensure the birds only have to stop in one place. Remember to make sure materials are clean and chemical free. You wouldn't want to accidentally offer toxic resources. It is recommended to offer dry resources. Even though the birds nest may become wet, they are more likely to use materials that are dry initially.

Make your backyard bird friendly by making sure there are a lot of trees, shaded areas, bird houses and plenty of food. Some say that hummingbirds won't visit a birdhouse if it is too close to wind chimes or decorative flags. It is the sound and movement that seems to frighten them. To be sure they don't get startled - try to keep these items approximately 20 feet from their bird houses. This way they will never be afraid to go home.

By inviting birds to stay, you are able to see their remarkable lives before your eyes. You will see their courtship behavior, nest building tactics and how they raise their young brood. At first you may only invite a few birds, but it also presents the perfect opportunity to attract a wide variety of birds to your backyard. If a family senses you are a friendly companion, they may invite other families to join them.

Heather Cherry holds a Masters in Professional Writing from Chatham University. She is a 4-H Youth Leader of a writing club to help inspire and shape young writers with their dreams. She is a member of the Kane Area Chamber of Commerce, the Kane Garden Club and the Route 6 Tourist Association where she serves as Administrative Assistant. Heather has spent most of her life involving herself in writing by authoring a young adult fiction novel titled Angst, authoring blogs on her website,, beginning a writing and communication consulting business, reporting for her local newspapers The Ridgway Record and The Bradford Era as well as writing a variety of articles for many different outlets. Heather and her husband Steve live in rural Pennsylvania where there isn't much commotion other than the rustling trees. Here they raise their son, Troy.