Birds – love ‘em or loathe ‘em? I know some very passionate “birders” who plan their annual vacations around checking off a list of bird species to be spotted. There are resorts around the world that sell their bird count numbers in their marketing campaigns to entice visitors.

There are also some people who run screaming like a modern-day Tippi Hedren at the sight of a feather.

We would hazard to guess the majority of people are somewhere in between. In our humble opinion, birds are a very important part of the Web of Life, and should be treated with care and respect. They feed off of insects that otherwise can become a nuisance if left unchecked.

Attracting wild birds to visit your back yard may not be as difficult as you think. In most cases there are already several birds that travel through your area but are not enticed to stay. By adding amenities like food, water and shelter you can turn your yard into an inviting, bird-friendly habitat all year round.

Here are our tips:

  • Provide Shelter
    • Birds of all species will be attracted to thick bushes and evergreens that provide shelter from harsh winds and scorching sun. Winter is an especially important time to provide shelter from extreme cold. A large spruce tree will provide optimal protection for nesting and migratory birds. The greater the variety of evergreens on your property, the more different types of protection you can provide.
  • Provide Food (see list below)
    • Similarly, different types of trees and shrubs provide an array of essential foods to sustain the needs of different birds.
    • Winter is the most important time to provide adequate food sources. Birds cannot differentiate tastes such as sweet or sour. They choose their food based on ripeness, moisture content and nutrient value.
    • Decorative berries that hang on plants all winter are essential to providing an early spring food source.
    • Late fall is the time when ripening seeds on native perennials, shrubs and tree species provide birds with enough food to store body fat for the coming winter months.
    • Hard seeds and nuts, such as acorns, are collected and eaten by over 54 native Illinois bird species.
    • While store-bought seed is a luxurious treat for local birds, it can become an expensive and unreliable food source.
    • A garden full of flowering and fruiting plants provides the perfect pantry for hungry birds.
  • Provide Water
    • In addition to requiring a constant source of food, water is essential to the sustenance of birds throughout the winter months.
    • When the usual sources have frozen over, birds become creative in the search for adequate moisture.
    • Birds can be seen fluttering against the sides of a westerly facing building on a sunny winter’s day, in order to catch melting droplets as they run off of icicles hanging from gutters.
    • In order to assist the birds through these challenging days, weeks and months of sometimes sub-zero temperatures, homeowners can provide a welcome relief through the purchase, and correct installation of an all-season bird bath.
    • Bird baths providing winter sustenance should be located in a sheltered area, close to a frequently used door so they will be re-filled and cleaned regularly.
  • Reduce Dangers
    • Cats allowed to roam outdoors prove to be deadly to birds on a day to day basis. The addition of a bell to a cat’s collar will alert the birds to the approaching danger.
    • Toxic substances left to sit without a cover prove toxic to birds when consumed. Engine coolant, as well as several clear cleansing liquids, are examples. Birds may drink these substances, and, without the sense of smell or taste, are unable to detect their toxicity.
    • Very toxic substances, such as acids or petroleum products, may produce toxic fumes that will imperil the lives of birds flying through their vapors.
  • Top ten plants for bird habitat in the Chicago area
    • Serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.) deciduous tree
    • Crabapple (Malus sp.) deciduous tree
    • Oak (Quercus sp.) shade tree
    • Cedar (Juniperus sp.) evergreen shrubs and tree
    • Spruce (Picea sp.) evergreen tree
    • Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) fruiting vine
    • Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) flowering vine
    • Dogwood (Cornus sp.) shrubs and trees
    • Viburnum, particularly Nannyberry and Arrowwood (Viburnum sp.) shrubs
    • Coneflower (Echinacea) flowering perennial

If you are lucky, you will start to see more of these colorful creatures in your yard soon. We guarantee the first time you see a Hummingbird darting around your yard, it just might be the highlight of your day.