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How To Transform Your Yard Into a Wild Bird Sanctuary

By: Kate Nalepinski


Listen…hear those tweets? Look…see those flashes of color?

From hummingbirds to catbirds, thrashers to woodpeckers to warblers, nothing says “spring” quite like wild birds chirping and flitting and flying across Long Island. And now is the time to start prepping that backyard so that local birds feel welcome on you property.

“Anytime is a good time to welcome birds to your yard,” says Andy Burke, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Syosset. However, “nesting season is upon us, so now is the time to put up nest boxes in your yard.”

Burke, a five-years-specialist in backyard bird feeding, says bird-watching can substantially reduce stress. “There was a study that showed that sitting out watching birds in your yard for just a few minutes each day reduces stress in your life – plus it brings us joy,” he says.

To welcome all sorts of flying friends into your yard Burke recommends first hanging a classic feeder in a centralized location. Using high-quality seeds and suets will help attract more birds, Burke says; try to avoid the generic, low-cost brands where possible. “There are many stores that sell low cost seeds that are mostly filler, to keep that cost down, that our birds will not eat. It ends up on the ground and can attract rodents.”

If you’ve set up a feeder (with top quality seed) and wild birds are not instantly attracted to your yard, do not fret! “It can take weeks for birds to find a feeder,” Burke notes. “They find their food by sight, so be patient.”

Once your feeder is set up, consider placing a bird bath in the yard to welcome even more fluttering friends. “Not all birds come to feeders, but [they] will readily use a water feature.”

The next step? Install a nest box, or birdhouse. Unless there are trees which shade the nest box during daylight hours, a box should face north or east, thus avoiding strong sunlight and winds, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a United Kingdom-based charity group. Further, make sure the birds have a clear flight path to the nest without any clutter.

After the nest box is set up, consider planting native flora in your yard. “Planting natives is very important for inviting to birds to your yard because they are hosts to many different varieties of food sources such as bugs, caterpillars, berries and nectar,” he says.

Having a good pair of binoculars “is another good item to have handy to help spot birds high up in trees, or just to get a better close up view of their beauty,” says Burke. Another tip: if you do put out a feeder and/or bath, be sure to clean them frequently. One clean per season is not enough, he says.

Wild Birds Unlimited in Syosset hosts monthly educational programs on topics such as the importance of birds, gardens for birds and creating backyard habitats, bird feeding and more. For more information, visit syosset.wbu.com.