Friday, June 27, 2014

If You Build It, They Will Come

House Wren
When we first moved to Mexico, NY,  in the winter of 1974, I was a stay-at-home Mom. I loved it! Back then I would cook and clean (not too much of that anymore though- hahaha), and I had several crafting hobbies. I used to knit and crochet, and sew quite a bit. I still have a lot of crafting hobbies only they changed a little over the years.
Male Ruby-throated humming bird
(female does not have red on throat)

I can remember sitting in our living room while working on some craft projects and hearing or seeing some birds that I had never seen before. When you live in the city you are excited to see a red-winged black bird because that's about the only bird with the color of red in it that you were lucky to see. I never saw a cardinal, blue jay or humming bird before until we moved to the country. And I can remember seeing goldfinches when we would vacation in Canada and we thought they were escaped or wild canaries.

Downy Woodpecker and Goldfinch

Well, this was my first experience of "living in the country" so to speak. Lots of wide open spaces, cows grazing across the road and in the fields behind our property, and tractors going up and down the road. Coming from an urban area (originally from Niagara Falls and living a few years in Liverpool, NY), I never really experienced country life before. When you live in an urban area you don't see the birds of the fields, or the ones that live in orchards or woodlands unless you go on a field trip. They were not everyday sightings.

Tree swallow that nested in PVC Pipe next box.

I first became interested in learning about some of the birds that were hanging around our pine trees and eating pine cone seeds. Like the chickadees and blue jays. And there were lots of blue jays. Blue jays live in the edges of forests and I guess with all the trees that were in the area it could be considered a "forest edge".

Blue jay

It was exciting to see the blue jays visit our yard so we decided to put up some bird feeders to attract them and maybe some other birds as well. That was the start of bird watching for us. We're not professional "birders", but we do enjoy the wildlife and birds that have visited our yard and area over the years. I purchased a very simple bird book at first (a small pocket book) to help identify the birds we were seeing in our yard. It was a basic beginner book, and when I started seeing a lot of different migrating sparrows in our backyard it was time to get another bird book, one that listed more varieties of birds.

What also helped in identifying the birds that we were seeing was that the bird book would show you a map for each species of bird on where you can find it and where it spends its winters and summers, and also where it is a year round resident. For example if you are trying to identify a bird and look it up, if you look at the residency map it will show you if that bird frequents your area. If it doesn't, then you probably didn't identify it correctly. That was a great help in identifying migrating birds. In some cases it also tells you when they arrive and when they leave your area. We have several variety of birds that might not stay in our area year round, but migrate through to spend their summer in Canada and winter in the south. These birds will stop and search for food, rest, and drink from our little pond or bird bath.
Robin on a nest in a grapevine wreath
 and she thinks we can't see her.

If you want to attract birds to your yard the most important things to consider are they need food, water, and nesting sites.

Eastern Towhee* (see note below) visiting our little waterfall 
One of the major ways to attract birds is running water. They can hear running water when they are flying over and will stop to check it out. We've had robins take "showers" under a sprinkler. All birds need water. We have a very small, man-made pond  with a little waterfall that attracts the birds, and there is a little bird bath not too far from that.

Site a birdbath away from shrubs where predators can hide, but not to far away from areas where they can preen themselves after their bath (like low branches from a tree). When their wings are wet they can't fly too well.

Eastern Towhee taking a bath

Here is the story of our pond: After reading that birds are attracted to running water I thought it would be a great idea to have a little pond in the back yard with a fountain or a little falls. So I decided to get a pond for my husband for Father's Day one year, but I had to ask him if I bought him a pond would he dig the hole and install it. So that's the story of the pond. We've replaced the liner a few times, and have had some goldfish over the years (and for several years one of my friends, Rose S., fed the goldfish for us while we were away). It's a very relaxing place where we often enjoy our morning cup of coffee or tea on the swing behind it. A few times around dusk, we've had the wood thrush visit the pond and sing their beautiful songs. We also get other wildlife (and domestic animals) visiting the pond too, like the raccoons, frogs, dragon flies, chipmunks, and neighbors' cats will stop by too.

Robins nest. Twigs and shredded paper for outside,
and lined with grass.

Nesting areas. I think one of the most important things to consider for attracting birds to your yard is to not have a 'spotless' yard. By that I mean that a bird needs materials to make a nest.They will use twigs, grass clippings, yarn, string, moss, dead leaves, animal fur or human hair, feathers, pine needles, shredded paper, etc. Each species of bird uses material specific to their individual needs on where they site their nest.

Four baby robins 

Baby Robins (you can see shredded paper making up the nesting materials)

Baby robin (fledgling) that learned to fly and left the nest.

Oriole's nest suspended from small branches.  She makes a little hammock nest. You can see a little of her on the top of the nest. I couldn't knit something that intricate. And how does that nest stay on those branches when exposed to
 50+ miles per hour winds?
Male Oriole eating grape jelly from feeder

Oriole feeders:
Jelly feeder on left (pattern thanks to Carolynn & Ron Dunn)

Female Bluebird

And I took these photos of the bluebirds while visiting our friends in Florida, Barb & Andy. They have attracted beautiful bluebirds and several other varieties of birds by keeping their bird feeders and bird bath full. You will always see several beautiful birds at their place.

Male Bluebird

"To the philosopher, as well as the naturalist, and to every man of feeling, the manners, migration, and immense multitudes of birds in this country, are subjects of interesting and instructive curiosity."
~Alexander Wilson (1766-1813) 
poet, ornithologist, naturalist, illustrator

Some of my previous posts on birds:
This One Is For The Birds
Spring Flowers and Summer Residents
Birdhouses - Think Spring

Other related links:
How to Attract Birds to Your Yard
Attracting Birds with Nesting Materials
Facts on the Baltimore Oriole

*Note: The Eastern Towhee was previously named the Rufous-sided Towhee. The Rufous-sided Towhee species of birds were split into the Eastern Towhee and the Spotted Towhee. Birdwatching- Recent Name Changes

Thanks for stopping by-
Hope you enjoyed your visit. 
Feel free to leave a comment.


  1. Your photos are so special and so much fun...I love having birds share my garden, your post was so enjoyable.

    1. Thank you Charlie. We are so fortunate to attract so many different birds in our environment. The birds are very entertaining and it's always exciting every time we see a "new" visitor at the feeders or using the birdbath or pond.

  2. Sue you have captured so many great birds...i adore baby robins with their speckled breast and short tail. I a great habitat and they do come.

    1. Thanks Donna. I love the baby robins too. We have had several broods already and another female is sitting on eggs again.

  3. Love the baby robins and your bluebirds. I don't get them here, but do see them in the fields. I too have built it and they came and am so glad they did. It makes life so much more enjoyable knowing you can provide for them. You have such a great selection.

    1. The baby robins are so cute and they grow so fast. We don't have any bluebirds nesting in our area right now, but we've had them in the past. I'm hoping to attract them back to the area. I've seen them around, but not sure where they are nesting.
      I loved your winter posts on your backyard feeders and all the birds that visit. And also the hawk that was checking out your birds as well. It really does make it very enjoyable and rewarding especially when you see a new species that you've never seen before. Thanks for commenting, Donna.