With detailed pictures and instructions, the new second edition of
"The Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds" leads the way.
Author Stephen W. Kress goes well beyond the backyard bird feeder,
showing stewards of the land how to create an entire habitat around
the things wild birds need to survive. "That means a lot more than
just food and water," Kress points out. "It means places to hide
from predators, places to perch and sing, and places to build
nests." The emphasis is on using all sorts of grasses, flowers,
trees and shrubs that are native to a particular region, blending
them into a well-planned habitat that will enhance the property and
bring in more birds.
"The Audubon Society Guide to Attracting
Birds" contains information on habitat-building that applies to all
regions of North America. Chapters are devoted to creating and
preserving wetlands, grasslands, prairie, forest and backyard
habitats. With 80 percent of wildlife habitat now in private hands,
it falls to owners of all-sized properties to take the lead in
conserving the diversity of both birds and plants. Otherwise these
numbers will increase:
Whether planning for an urban yard, county park, highway median
or country estate, the reader will find a wide range of techniques
available to design landscapes that will benefit wild birds.
"The Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds" arrives in stores
in mid-April. It is published by Cornell University Press in
association with the National
Audubon Society and the
Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
The author is vice-president for bird conservation for the
National Audubon Society. He also directs the Audubon Seabird
Restoration Program, teaches field ornithology at the Cornell Lab of
Ornithology, and has written many books and papers about birds and
* * *
Ten spring projects for attracting more
songbirds to properties large and small
Compiled from "The Audubon Society
Guide to Attracting Birds," by Stephen W. Kress
along your property edge by planting trees and shrubs
that meet the needs of birds throughout the year. Select native
plants adapted to the weather extremes of your local climate.
The border can take the form of a hedge or windbreak, depending
on your property size. Plant several of each species adjacent to
each other, selecting a mix of plants, with the tallest planted
at the edges of the property and shorter species tiered toward
your home. Include at least one species of thorny tree, such as
hawthorn or raspberry, for nesting. Also include evergreens such
as spruce, holly or juniper for cover. Plant berry-producing
shrubs such as dogwood, serviceberry and viburnum that will
provide fruit throughout the seasons.
native trees like oaks and maples where space permits. Such
trees can provide food, shelter and singing perches for birds
for centuries to come. Planting a long-lived tree is a gift to
future generations of birds and people.
Create a brush
pile in a corner of your property. Each time a storm drops
limbs, heap them up. During spring cleanup, save those downed
branches and tree trunks from the community wood chipper. Layer
the larger logs as a foundation; then build up the pile in
successive layers. In large fields that are growing into young
forest, create living brush piles by cutting neighboring
saplings most of the way through the trunks, then pulling them
into a collective heap. Songbirds will find shelter from extreme
weather in such cover throughout the year.
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to create mulch and natural feeding areas for
ground-feeding birds such as sparrows, towhees and thrashers.
Earthworms, pill bugs, insects and spiders will thrive in the
decomposing leaf mulch and will in turn be readily eaten by many
songbirds. In general, overly tidy gardeners are poor bird
plants from your property. Learn which species are native
and which are not. Because most invasive species hail from other
continents and have no natural predators here, they often form
monocultures and crowd out native species. In contrast, native
trees, shrubs, vines and ground covers typically provide a mix
of foods that ripen just in time for migrating birds and offer
better nesting sites.
Reduce your lawn
by at least 25 percent to favor meadow plants and taller
grasses. Tall grasses provide seeds and nesting places for
birds. Cut this meadow just once each year, and let the
remainder of the lawn grow 3 to 4 inches tall before cutting.
Take the "healthy yard pledge" to avoid lawn pesticides and
www.audubonathome.org/pledge. Currently, 50 percent of U.S.
households treat their lawns with chemicals that kill about 7
million birds each year. These chemicals also leach into our
groundwater, where they move to wells, streams, lakes and
oceans. To learn more about healthy habitats, visit
from nest boxes in early spring. When
setting out new nest boxes, consider the preferred habitat for
different species, as well as the size of the entrance hole and
its distance above the ground. Face boxes to the east in
northern latitudes to provide extra warmth. In forests, play
"woodpecker" by using a power drill to create 1 1/4-inch holes
into dead snags 4 to 5 feet off the ground. These holes will
serve as nest cavity starts for chickadees and titmice.
Clean out old bird
and mouse nests
by setting out a shallow
birdbath or upside-down garbage can lid. If cats visit your
yard, be sure to place the pool on a pedestal. Clean it
frequently with a stiff brush to prevent algae growth, and
replace the water every few days to eliminate mosquito larvae.
For greater success, add a dripping device.
Create a bathing
and drinking pool for birds
with a bottle brush and a 10 percent solution of
non-chlorine bleach solution. Rinse thoroughly and dry in the
sun before refilling. Rake up soggy seed that could grow deadly
mold under feeders. Move feeders close to the house to avoid
window strikes. Collisions with windows may kill as many as a
billion birds in the United States each year. Birds that are at
feeders and are spooked by a hawk or other predator will scatter
in all directions. Move feeders within three feet of a window.
At such close distances, birds are less likely to gather lethal
momentum when startled. The birds will be safer, and you'll get
a better view!
Clean tube feeders
for the safety of both the birds and your cat. There
are about 100 million pet and stray cats in the United States.
They kill hundreds of millions of birds each year -- especially
in the spring when young songbirds are fledging, often on or
near the ground. And cats themselves are safer from collisions
with cars, predators, diseases and parasites when kept indoors.
Keep your cat
[News release provided by
Cornell Lab of Ornithology]