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Expert tips for creating a backyard habitat for colorful summer birds

July 23, 2009

Whether city or country, bird watching is fun, and you can create an environment for it in your own back yard in less time than you think. Summer is a great time to get started because the most colorful birds with beautiful songs are around to enhance your outdoor environment.
“Late May, June and July are great times to bird watch because lots of birds are nesting,” says John Robinson, chief ornithologist and manager of Scotts Birding Center of Excellence. He goes on to explain that the colorful males are displaying their plumage to attract the females so you can see plenty of beautiful species. In addition, once the baby birds are old enough to leave the nest, the mother will show them where food is, making your backyard feeder a much-appreciated resource.
Robinson says there are three components to making your back yard an oasis for feathered friends:
1. Vegetation provides shelter—Having a variety of shrubs and trees in your yard makes it bird friendly. Birds use trees, shrubs and plants to hide from both the elements and their natural predators, as well as to roost or nest in. Additionally, the right types of vegetation also provide fruit or seeds for the birds to eat.
White pine, arborvitae, spruce, juniper, cedar, holly and other broadleaf and needle evergreens provide essential protection all year as well as food. Hedges of serviceberry or viburnum provide food, shelter and nesting spots. Flowers like columbine and trumpet vine attract hummingbirds with their sweet nectar.
2. Quality food nourishes—Not all bird food is created equal. Look for blends that were researched in the field and created to attract the types of birds you want to see in your back yard. Avoid filler material like milo, wheat or cracked corn.
To attract colorful birds, Robinson recommends Scotts Songbird Selections Colorful Bird Blend, which was developed by ornithologists. This mix is made from 10 high-quality ingredients that are blended in a specific ratio designed to attract more colorful birds. Results may vary by region and/or season, but Colorful Bird Blend has been proven to attract up to twice as many than with ordinary wild bird food. The mix is also less attractive to blackbirds, grackles and cowbirds, which are often considered a nuisance.
Another good option is Scotts Songbird Selections Wild Finch & Small Songbird Blend, which was scientifically mixed to attract goldfinches. Field research done across the country by Robinson, his team, and university partners, shows that while results may vary by region and/or season, this mix can attract up to two times the number of finches as other types of ordinary wild bird food. Additionally, it also attracts other interesting small birds such as nuthatches, chickadees and native sparrows.
3. Water quenches thirst—Putting out a birdbath, especially one with a trickle or fountain, makes your garden a very popular spot. Whether you put a decorative birdbath in your back yard or simply place a large clay saucer on the ground or on top of a tree stump, make sure it has a rough surface and a shallow bowl. If you have a pond or stream, place flat rocks in them for bird perches.
Birds require fresh water, so clean birdbaths often and replace water every couple of days.
For more information and additional ideas about how to create a bird habitat in your own back yard, visit www.scottswildbirdfood.com.

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