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How to Attract Birds to Your Yard
Attract migratory birds and other feathered friends to your neighborhood!
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Millions of Americans enjoy feeding birds — which means that if you're looking to create a bird-friendly backyard, there are more resources than ever before. And now is an ideal time to embrace the hobby, because as autumn approaches, non-native birds heading south for the winter will be searching for food and water along the way.

Interested? If so, here are some simple tips on how to attract migratory birds and other feathered friends to your neighborhood.
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1. Best bird food
The Best Foods to Attract Birds
One of the best is black oil sunflower seed, says wildlife biologist Carrol Henderson, author of "Wild About Birds." Species attracted to this seed include Midwestern backyard birds such as blue jays, cardinals and chickadees.

Other seed options include Nyjer thistle, attractive not only to native birds but also to migratory species. Migratory birds also tend to like smaller seeds such as white millet, which is good for juncos, migratory sparrows and smaller, finch-type birds, Henderson says.

Beyond seed, suet is a high-energy food enjoyed by woodpeckers and chickadees, Henderson says. Suet is a form of animal fat that is often molded into cakes.

As for what not to use, stay away from what you might think is the conventional bird and duck food.

"Bread has little, if any, nutritional value, and moldy bread can make birds sick," says Janet Snyder, outreach manager for humane wildlife conflict resolution for the Humane Society of the United States.
Autumn is the best time to attract migratory birds to your yard as they head south for winter.
2. Wild bird feeders
Three main types of bird feeders
"The most successful bird (hobbyists) use five or six feeders, each with a different kind of seed," Henderson says.

There are three main types of feeders, Snyder says:

• Tube bird feeders, which come in various sizes and shapes, can be appropriate for all types of seed.
• Hopper feeders, which look similar to a birdhouse, hold many types of seed, and can accommodate larger birds like cardinals.
• Platform bird feeders, which feature a flat surface with a perimeter lip to keep food from spilling. Such feeders can be placed low for juncos, mourning doves and other ground-feeding birds.

Proper maintenance is also important, Snyder says.

"Feeders should be cleaned and washed regularly — every two weeks or so — to reduce the chance of spreading disease and to remove any spoiled or moldy seed," she says.
3. How to keep predators away from your bird feeder
Feeders should be situated to keep birds as safe as possible, Henderson says. This is especially important for migratory birds.

"When they're migrating to an area they're not familiar with, they're more susceptible to predation by cats or hawks," Henderson says.

One tactic is to use twigs, branches and sticks of various sizes to build a brush pile about 10 feet from the feeder, which birds can use as a hiding place, Henderson says. An effective brush pile is usually about 10 feet long and 5 feet high.

Blue jays are also a helpful defense against hawks; other birds recognize their loud distress call. To attract more blue jays to the yard, add unshelled and unsalted peanuts to the feed mix.
4. Prevent squirrels and cats from eating your bird seed
Consider using safflower seed: Cardinals like it, squirrels don't, Henderson says.

To keep squirrels and raccoons away from the feeder, you might add dome or pole baffles, which make it more difficult for these interlopers to mooch.

You can also encircle ground feeders with wire rabbit fencing, Henderson says. The wire fencing can prevent hawks from swooping in and pulling birds off the feeder, and also stop cats from hiding near the feeder.

By the way, if you own a cat and let it outdoors, you probably should reconsider whether it's a good idea to attract and feed birds. "People who allow their cats to roam or (people who) feed feral or stray cats should be strongly discouraged from enticing birds to their yard with feeders," Snyder says.
5. Install a birdbath
Attract more birds with water.
You can bring more birds to your yard simply because they are attracted to the sound of trickling water, Henderson says.

"You can get tropical migratory birds stopping at your birdbath in the fall," Henderson says. "You're going to see birds coming to your bath that you wouldn't normally see."

Although birds don't need much water, a birdbath can be a helpful defense against the elements.

"Water is essential to life and can be hard for birds to find when rainwater is scarce, or in cold Midwestern winters when water sources are frozen," Snyder says.

— Sarah Frink, Tribune Brand Publishing
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