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Creating a Backyard Bird Habitat

So you bought your new bird feeder, and now you want to know how to get the birds to come over for dinner. Learning how to attract birds to your new backyard bird habitat involves just a few simple steps.

Entice your favorite birds to your home garden with the following items:

  • Water

  • Food

  • Shelter from enemies and the elements

  • A place to raise a family

WATER

Here are some key points to keep your favorite birds happy even on the hottest (or coldest) Texas days:



  1. Just like humans, birds need water. Water is essential for a sufficient backyard habitat for birds.

  2. Birds like water, so try placing your bird feeder and your bird house near a bird bath, fountain, or a source of trickling water, e.g. pond, trickling water fall, etc. If there is a steady and reliable source of water year-round, you have a better chance of attracting birds and convincing them stay.

  3. There needs to be steady foothold for the birds around the water sources.

  4. A few small rocks or bricks placed accordingly

  5. Birds do not like deep water. A bird bath with gently sloping sides that is sturdy and not too deep is a song bird’s oasis.

  6. Keep your water source away from potential hiding places for predators e.g. cats.

  7. Try to keep your water sources clean by regularly scrubbing and re-circulating with clean water.

  8. Even during the hottest or coldest day in Texas, water is still an essential. During hot dry weather, try putting out clay saucers with water to supplement your regular water source. In the coldest Texas weather, Bird Bath heaters can be purchased to keep water thawed.


FOOD

Not just any generic bird seed will suffice in a bird feeder, and bird feeders are designed to hold specific type of food. Many factors need to be considered when choosing bird seed. The various types of bird food include:


  1. Black oil sunflower seeds

  2. Safflower Seeds ( not a favorite of squirrels)

  3. Sunflower Seeds

  4. Thistle seed ( not a favorite of squirrels)

  5. Suet Cakes

  6. Fruit

  7. Peanuts

  8. Nectar

Most birds have food preferences. Some are seed eaters, some are fruit eaters, some prefer nectar, some are insect eaters, and some will eat almost everything. Help keep your favorite birds whistling by providing their favorite food, and by following these guidelines to each type of eating habits:

Seed Eaters

Most of your more common visitors such as your Cardinals, Finches, and Wrens are all seed eaters. They are all attracted by Marshall Grain’s quality seed mixtures such as the Premium Wild Bird Mix. They all like Black Oil Sunflower Seeds. On the other hand, Finches seem to really like Thistle Seed, and many song birds enjoy eating Safflower Seed.

A different way to attract seed eating birds to your backyard garden habitat is with plants such as ornamental grasses, coneflowers, or black-eyed Susans, as these plants fade in late summer and fall they provide a special treat for the birds.

Fruit Eaters

These include your Mockingbirds and Cedar Waxwings

Serving fresh fruit and dried fruits such as raisins and dried strawberries, offered on an open tray feeder, will be appreciated; these birds will always prefer their fruit straight off the tree. They love dogwood berries, holly berries, blueberries, strawberries, and wax myrtle. Plant these in your garden for future generations of your favorite bird.

Nectar Eaters

The Ruby Throated Hummingbird is the primary nectar eater in our area. You can rely on the classic recipe of sugar and water or check out some of Marshall Grain’s special formulations of Hummingbird nectars. During the busiest Hummingbird season make sure to have plenty of feeders available for all of your favorite Hummingbird’s and remember to keep these feeders filled with fresh nectar daily.



The most popular insectivores of our area are probably Robins, Woodpeckers, and the Bluebird. During the summer, these birds will be less prominent due to there being plenty of available food elsewhere, but when the temperature plunge and insects are short of supply many times these birds as well as others can be enticed to come to the feeder with dried meal worms.


Bird seed is popular for feeding from a tube feeder. At Marshall Grain’s Nursery we provide more on the best bird feeders for your needs, which will help attracting the birds you are most interested in, whether doves, cardinals, wrens or hummingbirds.

For new tube feeders, start by filling with Marshall Grain’s Special Bird Feed, a favorite among most birds. Suet cakes work well too but will need a suet feeder if you plan to serve cake. Buying bird seed or suet cakes from a Marshall Grain’s Nursery, and not a grocery store or pet store, helps to give you the advantage over neighboring competition, and placing a platform feeder nearby with oranges or berries help to attract a greater variety of birds.

Make sure that you keep your birdfeeders full year-round. Some birds will visit throughout the year, and if your feeder is always full, the birds will keep coming back for more. Winter is a harsh time for non-migratory birds, and often their only source of nourishment is through birdfeeders, so make sure to offer them in your garden.


SHELTER FROM ENEMIES AND THE ELEMENTS

The bird house you offer as shelter needs to be designed for the specific size bird fed. When purchasing a bird house, ask yourself what birds visit your garden the most. Most bird houses are ideal for birds that are a bluebird size smaller, included wrens, finches, chickadees, and titmice. Choosing a birdhouse with a hole opening that is 1.5” or smaller will keep larger birds out.



When determining how close the bird house and feeder should be positioned, know that placing a bird house within close distance from a bird feeder allows birds to feed their young and enjoy short flights for food in harsh weather conditions. Add a bird house to increase your yard’s appeal too.


One of the most important shelters that we can offer our beloved backyard birds are dense evergreen hedges such as Boxwoods, Abelias, Barberries, Cypress, Hollies, Junipers, and many others that are all found at Marshall Grain’s Nursery. These sturdy evergreens will universally protect the head of the house and their young from predators and inclement weather. Consider planting different varieties of evergreens around the border of your garden to please all the different types of birds that will be visiting or staying!


Larger shade trees and tall conifers such as red maples, oaks, pecans, Japanese maples and many other large trees are the preferred safe spot for some species. Some birds, especially Bluebirds, will seek winter shelter in boxes they used for nesting the previous summer, while others prefer a hollow tree to making a living in.


A Place to Raise a Family

Most birds are quite specific as to the type of nesting site they are looking for keep themselves and their young ones in. However, some birds will nest just about anywhere from your Marshall Grain’s hanging basket or an old gardening hat left outside.

Specific type of nesters can be accounted for as followers:

  1. Cavity Dwellers: Nesting boxes or bird houses are what accommodate cavity dwellers the best. Your Bluebirds will be quite picky about the size and location of her home. It must be on a solid post and must be 6 to 10 feet off the ground while facing an open yard or field. Other birds attracted to nesting boxes are your neighborhood Woodpeckers and Chickadees.

  2. Tree and Shrub Nesters: Robins, Blue Jays, Cardinals, our state bird the Mockingbird all nest in trees and shrubs. Tree and shrub nesting birds (depending on the species) will nest anywhere from 3 feet off the ground to 20 feet. While some prefer dense shrub to be hidden, other choose a high forked deciduous tree to make an elevated home. Therefore, it is important to have variety of plant material throughout your garden to attract a wide variety of birds.

  3. Ground Nesters: Some birds make their nest on the ground such as your flower bed or right behind a tree to give it a little more protection. This makes them more vulnerable in an urban environment. Try planting a boxwood, azalea, or any low to the ground evergreen or shrub to satisfy these ground loving birds.

Tips and Tricks

If you need a few more tips to attract birds to your garden, try offering something shiny. Birds are attracted to shinny objects, so using bird feeder with a metallic base or design is effective, or simply place a shiny metal object close to the feeder. If incorporating a bird house into the yard, consider a house with copper top.

You can also tease with seed. Scatter a few on the ground near the feeder to get the attention of visiting birds and encourage them eat.

If squirrels are a problem at your feeders try using Hot Suet Cakes or a blend of Hot Seasoned Dry Seed Mix. These have hot peppers added and the squirrels hate them. However, the birds don’t seem to even notice it though. You can also use any type of Squirrel repellent to keep these unwanted quests away from your birding habitat. To keep the squirrels in their place and for a good laugh, try Droll Yankees Flippers Feeder. It is activated by gravity and will quickly spin the squirrels away from the birds’ food.


Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Garden

The Following guidelines will show all you Hummingbird lovers how to attract your favorite hovering hummingbirds to your garden and keep them coming back for more year-round.


  1. Food Resources

  2. Flowering Plants: Red buckeye, jewelweed, columbine, trumpet creeper, red morning glory, bee-balm , Scarlet painted-cup, coral honeysuckle, cardinal flower royal and round-leaved catch flying , fire -pink phlox, coral salvia. Lilies, scarlet sage, aloes and many others

  3. Insects and Other Food Items: Mosquitoes, gnats fruit flies, small bees, spiders, caterpillars, aphids, insect eggs, willow catkins

Plants That Attract Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

Early blooming plants:

  1. Wildflowers: Bleeding heart, blue phlox, carpet bugle, columbine, coral bells, fire pink, lyre-leaved, sage, Virginia Bluebell

  2. Shrubs: Flame azalea, lilac, pink azalea, winter jasmine

  3. Trees: Flowering crabapples

Intermediate blooming plants:

  1. Wildflowers: Blazing Star, Butterfly-weed, Canna, lily , common geranium, daylily, garden phlox , Indian paintbrush , iris

  2. Shrubs: Beauty bush, sweet azalea

  3. Vines: Trumpet honeysuckle

Nesting cover:

  1. Hummingbirds nest on down sloping limbs of trees from 5’ to 25’ off the ground. Nests are usually made from plant down, spider webs and lichens.

  2. Manage harvested woodlands to leave adequate nesting resources

Reduce herbicide use in nesting habitats during peak nesting months (March-August) or when application results in loss of nesting cover.


Create a source of running or trickling water in the form of a birdbath, small garden fountain, fish pond, or a pond with a waterfall.


Birding is the perfect family hobby. Both children and adults find it fascinating and exhilarating. You can spend as much or as little money and time as you like and always find something you didn’t know before about birding. Marshall Grain’s Nursery is your one stop shop for everything you need to begin creating your own backyard birding habitat and keeping those songs birds a whistling.

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