The Importance of Backyard
First of all, we should
look at what backyard birds do in the
world? This is an important question for us to think
about. Think of what the birds
are doing on every farm, ranch and homestead, in every garden and
about every home in the land.
the birds that have
beautiful feathers, such as the Birds of Paradise, or the many types of
colorful parrots. However, not everyone has these birds in their
backyard. Despite this, there are many birds in your garden that are
just as beautiful and who have lovely song.
However, birds are not
here just to look and sound beautiful. That is
not their only purpose. Aside from these services the
greatest work of birds is to destroy garden
pests and insects. It is
one of the wise
provisions of nature that many of the most brilliantly winged and most
enchanting songsters are our most practical friends.
Not all birds feed on
insects, garden pests and animals; but even those that eat but a
small amount of insect food may still destroy insects that would have
damaged fruit and crops much more than the backyard birds themselves do.
A Female Chaffinch picture
copyrighted to Marilyn Barbone
Three Types of Backyard
are divided into three general classes according to what they eat.
those that live wholly or almost wholly on
insects. These are called
- Chief among these are the warblers, cuckoos,
swallows, martins, flycatchers, nighthawks, whippoorwills, swifts, and
humming-birds. We cannot have too many of these backyard
birds should be
encouraged in the garden and protected. They should be supplied with
Birds of the
feed by preference on fruits, nuts, and grain. The
bluebird, robin, wood thrush, mocking-bird, catbird, chickadee,
cedar-bird, meadow lark, oriole, jay, crow, and woodpecker belong to
this group. These birds never fail to perform a service for us by
devouring many weed seeds.
class is known
as the hard-billed birds. It includes those
birds which live principally on seeds and grain—the canary, goldfinch,
sparrow, chaffinch, and some others.
A Common Backyard Bird - An American Robin
Birds that come early,
like the bluebird, robin,
special service in destroying insects and garden pests before the
insects lay their eggs
for the season.
During the winter the bark
is the hiding-place for hibernating insects,
which, like plant lice, feed in summer on the leaves. Throughout the
winter a single chickadee will destroy great numbers of the eggs of the
cankerworm moth and of the plant louse.
crows, quail, and sparrows
are the great protectors of the meadow and
field crops. These birds feed on the army worms and cutworms that do so
much injury to the young shoots; they also destroy the chinch bug and
the grasshopper, both of which feed on cultivated plants.
A count of all the
different kinds of animals shows that insects make up
nine tenths of them. Hence it is easy to see that if something did not
check their increase they would soon almost overrun the earth. Our
forests and orchards furnish homes and breeding-places for most of
Suppose the insects were allowed to multiply
unchecked in the forests, their numbers would increase so much that
would invade our fields and create as much terror among the farmers as
they did in the day of Pharaoh's Egypt. The birds are the only direct friends man
has to destroy these harmful insects. What benefactors, then, these
little feathered neighbors are!
It has been estimated that
a bird will eat 30
insects a day. Even
in a widely extended forest region a very few birds to the acre, if
kept up this rate, they would destroy many thousands of insects that
would normally play havoc with the neighboring orchards and fields.
Identifying Backyard Birds
in your Garden
There are a couple of
features to take into consideration when identifying backyard birds.
- Color and Markings
- Bill shape
- Making Comparisons
best way to identify birds in your back garden is through keen
observation. By really looking at the birds in your garden looking at
the above characteristics can you then help to identify them better.
Finally, if all else fails, get yourself a good field guide to your
local bird life and do some solid research.
Color and Markings
feather markings, markings on the tail, around the eyes, the color of
the beaks or bills and even the color of the legs will give you some
hints as to the type of bird you may be looking at.
The bill shape will
give you an idea of they type of food your bird eats. Also
look at the length of the bill and the shape.
Behavior of your Backyard Birds
at your birds and see what they are using for nesting material. What
trees do they like to sit in and is it because there is a nut or fruit
that they enjoy eating. What are they eating in your garden?
picking up worms from the grass or are they eating insects from the
bark of trees. Perhaps they are corn eaters or fruit eaters? Also
listen to its call and song.
do your birds sleep at night? Do they sleep on or close to the ground
in thick brush or do they sleep in the upper branches of the trees. Do
they sleep in holes in the trees? Are there any clues that they are
water fowl? Are they living close to fresh or salt water or even marsh
Building Bird Houses for
your Backyard Birds
in your backyard
are not just useful for destroying harmful insects. The day is made
more delightful when the birds sing, and when we
see them flit in and out or the trees, giving us a glimpse now and then
pretty coats and quaint ways.
By building bird houses
for them we can
ourselves with many birds, sweet of song and brilliant of plumage.
If the birds felt that man
were a friend and not a foe, they would often
turn to him for protection.
During times of severe
drought, or scarcity of food, if the birds were sufficiently tamed to
come to man as their friend, as they do in rare cases now, a little
and shelter might tide them over the hard times and their service
afterwards would repay the outlay a thousandfold.
If the boys in your
families take to building bird houses about the homestead,
garden and barn and in shade
trees, they might save yearly a great number of birds.
In building bird houses
places of shelter and comfort, due
care must be taken to keep them
clear of English sparrows and out of the reach of cats and bird-dogs.
A Marsh Wren
Attracting Backyard Birds to your Garden
Whatever we do to attract
the birds to the garden to make homes on the premises must
be done at the right time and in the right way. Think out carefully
materials to provide for them. Bits of string, linen, cotton, yarn, tow
and other waste material, all help to induce a pair to build in the
It is an interesting
study—the preparation of homes for the birds.
Trees may be pruned to make inviting crotches. A tangled, overgrown
corner in the garden will invite some birds to nest.
chickadees, martins, and some other varieties are all
glad to set up housekeeping in man-made bird houses. The proper size
bird-room is easily remembered. Give each backyard bird room of six
square inches of
floor space and make the birdhouse eight inches high.
Old, weathered boards
be used; or, if paint is employed, a dull color to resemble an old
tree-trunk will be most inviting. A single opening near the top should
be made two inches in diameter for the larger birds; but if the bird
to be headquarters for the wren, a one-inch opening is quite large
enough, and the small door serves all the better to keep out English
If you are thinking about
building bird houses we have a plan for a purple
martin bird house.
If you are homesteading
the barn attic should be
turned over to the swallows. Small holes may be
cut high up in the gables and left open during the time that the
swallows remain with us. They will more than pay for shelter by the
work they do in ridding the barn of flies, gnats, and mosquitoes.
10 Do's and Don'ts for Building Nest Boxes for Backyard Birds
If you have introduced nest boxes to your garden make sure that the
lids are secure so that squirrels, magpies and other animals
not able to steal the eggs.
boxes should be placed out of the wind, rain and full sun. If
nest box is not placed out of the sun the chicks will overheat
they will die.
3. Boxes should also
be postioned where cats cannot get to them. However, the nest
boxes should be placed conveniently close to a tree or shrub with small
branches so that the fledglings - and the fledglins only - can perch on
4. If you make your own
nest boxes, don't add a perch. Larger birds may come and scare away the
If you want to make or buy a bird box for blue tits the hole should be
roughly 2.5 cm in diameter. For slightly larger birds like
tits and sparrows the hole should be about 3.5 cm.
6. Make your nest boxes
from untreated wood.
7. Don't put any nesting
materials inside the nest box as birds prefer to bring in their own
It is essential to clean out bird boxes with boiling water in the fall,
otherwise diseases and parasites will be passed on to other birds
9. The best time to
put up a new nest box is in the early fall, which is the time that
birds start looking for nesting homes. Don't give up if your nesting
box isn't lived in, in the first year.
10. If you are planning to
put up a number of nest boxes don't place them too close together as
the birds like their own space.