Enhancing Your Backyard Birding Experience
Whether you're new to backyard bird feeding or a seasoned birder, sometimes you may find yourself disinterested in the same old birds that visit your feeders. While attracting new species is always a sure-fire way to stir up some excitement, there are many ways to see those loyal regulars in a light that can help inspire passion once again. If you're feeling in a bit of slump, try out these helpful tips to enhance your backyard birding experience.
Hairy Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus) and Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) sharing suet from a WBU Suet Log Feeder.
1. Incorporate photography
Watching birds fly to and from your feeders while enjoying the food you've provided is a rewarding experience in itself. Sometimes though, especially when at a distance, the birds can be difficult to make out, or maybe you've seen a species or behavior that you wish you had on camera. Incorporating photography in to your backyard birding can change your perspective entirely. Much of bird photography is about studying bird behavior, having patience, and observing your surroundings. By practicing these three things you'll find yourself learning new information about nature each day, and capturing great shots as you go.
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) drinking from a WBU Heated Bird Bath.
2. Add water
When it comes to backyard birding the first thing that comes to mind is feeding, but providing a consistent source of fresh water is equally as important as a reliable food source. Not all bird species will visit bird feeders, but almost all birds require fresh water to drink daily, and occasionally bathe in. Adding a water feature will not only provide you with views of your favorite feeder species drinking and bathing, but will also help attract birds who wouldn't normally visit your feeders such as American Robins and Warbler species. Adding a water feature can be as simple as setting up a bird bath, or as extravagant as constructing a backyard pond. However you choose to include water in your backyard landscape, the birds will thank you by rewarding you with hours of enjoyment.
3. Learn birdsongs
Knowing birds by sight is one thing, but learning their unique calls can open up a whole new world of backyard birding. By studying the various calls of our native bird species, you will quickly learn that each species has its own set of distinct calls, or vocabulary so to speak. Knowing the difference between a mating song and alert call can help you identify when nesting season is beginning, or when a threat such as a domestic cat is present in your yard. Being able to distinguish calls can also help you choose which foods would be best to offer, for example, if you've heard the loud call of a Northern Flicker but haven't seen any at your feeders, you may consider offering a high-quality suet or particularly palatable Bark Butter to help draw them in to view. Check out this great list of smart phone apps to help you get started on learning birdsong.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) feeding on nectar from an Echinacea (Purple Coneflower) flower. Photo credit: Barb D'Arpino
4. Garden for birds
Even though we provide copious amounts of the highest quality foods to our backyard birds, nothing can beat the natural bounty that nature produces for them. Often times in the spring and summer months there is a drop in feeder activity due to nesting and the opportunity to forage for natural foods such as insects, berries, seeds, and nectar from wild flowers. By growing native plants in your yard, you can help keep the birds nearby and get close up views of them foraging and feeding in a natural setting. Gardening using native plants is not only beneficial for the birds, but for pollinators such as bees and butterflies, and many of our at risk amphibian and reptiles species.
5. Keep a journal
Whether it be on paper or in digital format, keeping a journal of birds you've had visit your yard is a great way to boost interest and knowledge in the hobby. Some things to include in your journal could be species that you've seen in your yard, the date, time of day, which foods they were eating, behavioral notes, when fledglings appeared, migrant arrivals, and rarities. Keeping a record of these things will not only be exciting for you to compare over the years, but can also help you become "seasonally savvy". Being seasonally savvy means knowing the different needs that backyard birds have throughout the seasons, and knowing exactly when to start or stop offering specialized foods such as nectar for hummingbirds, or our Winter SuperBlend for the colder months ahead.
American Goldfinch pair enjoying WBU Finch Blend.
6. Join online communities
Social media has become a hotspot for birders of all walks of life. Facebook groups have been created to allow members to share sightings and photos of birds and wildlife, ask questions, and connect with fellow bird feeding and nature lovers. There are lots of great tips and suggestions throughout these online communities to help make your backyard birding experience a more enjoyable one, plus they serve as a great platform to give your own bits of advice and show off your beautiful bird photos.
Backyard birding is so much more than simply feeding, it is a lifelong learning experience!