You can tell it's spring because the Internet is aflutter with articles about birds. A lot of the articles relate closely to the two-part series I just wrapped up about attracting wild birds using methods informed by ornithology research (aka "science").
I was inspired to investigate the subject because we have a "new-to-us" backyard that is bare dirt. A few trees and shrubs sit at the corners of the lot, but that's it. We've begun by seeding in some native grasses and installing a vegetable garden, and now are considering what we could do to attract birds.
In part 1, Wild Birds: To feed or not to feed?, I looked at stats from US Fish & Wildlife Services and Stats Canada that quantify the interest we North Americans take in wild birds. I also briefly looked at what science research indicates about backyard bird feeding impacts (pros and cons), primarily because I really liked the idea of setting up a lot of feeders and watching colorful migratory species from our kitchen windows.
Spoiler alert - in part 2, Wild Birds; Attracting without feeding, I wound up writing about all the research I discovered that suggests feeding isn't very effective for attracting birds and can have a range of negative consequences. Happily, a lot of the research results also point to ways we can attract backyard birds without feeding.
Here are the research papers I referenced in that series, along with a handful of online resources about building bird habitat and feeder best practices.
If you have trouble accessing the research articles, contacting the author is a great way to get a copy. That's why I've provided links to author contact info for several of the papers.
- Having our yards and sharing them too: the collective effects of yards on native bird species in an urban landscape (pdf) - this is the article that made me realize feeding backyard birds might not be the most effective way of attracting them. All the rest of the articles were unearthed in my efforts to find more information about science-informed ways of creating attractive backyard bird habitat.
- Food for thought: supplementary feeding as a driver of ecological change in avian populations (pdf)
|House sparrows observed scavenging |
for crumbs outside a bakery.
- Are Urban Bird Communities Influenced by the Bird Diversity of Adjacent Landscapes? (pdf) - extremely interesting article that reports that urban birds are not the same species as those found just outside cities, and that urban bird species tend to be the same in cities experiencing the same climate and latitude factors.
- Urban Bird Diversity and Landscape Complexity: Species–environment Associations Along a Multiscale Habitat Gradient (pdf) - a related paper to the previous one
- Urbanization, Biodiversity, and Conservation (full article on the weg)
- Use of Winter Bird Feeders by Black-Capped Chickadees (journal article not open access; Brittingham profile on ResearchGate; Temple faculty page)
- Effects of feeding height and distance from protective cover on the foraging behavior of wintering birds (journal article not open access; Bollinger profile/article link on ResearchGate)
- Factors Influencing Seed Species Selection by Wild Birds at Feeders (journal article not open access; abstract of another related paper by these authors)
- The Effect of Feeder Hotspots on the Predictability and Home Range Use of a Small Bird in Winter (pdf)
- The Distribution of Wintering Birds in Central Maine: The Interactive Effects of Landscape and Bird Feeders (journal article not open access)
- Annual and seasonal trends in the use of garden feeders by birds in winter (pdf)
Popular articles & reports
Backyard Bird Habitat (aka Feeder Alternatives)
Feeder Best Practices
Birding and Birdfeeding Reports
- Backyards could be a boon for urban birds
- Using water features and roost boxes to attract birds
- Providing nesting materials
- Another on nesting materials
- Backyard migrants; Birder's World. 12.3 (June 1998): p24.
- Birder's World magazine blog posts about backyard birds
- Bestbird seed types
- Backyardbird feeding
- Hummingbirds: Don't love them to death
- Is winter bird feeding good or bad for birds?
- Dealing with disease at bird feeders
- That cuddly kitty is deadlier than you think
- Project Feeder Watch - citizen science opportunity
- Who feeds birds and why
- Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis (2011)
- Canadians and Nature, Birds (2013)
- Population Status of Migratory Game Birds in Canada (2013)
The rest of the story
|Waxwings I sketched mobbing a mountain|
ash tree several years ago in the spring.
A fine anecdote to illustrate the potential for attracting birds without feeding has occurred in my own back yard this spring.
As I described above, we have not done anything to specifically attract birds, and we have not set out any feeders.
And yet, in the last week, we have observed males of several vibrantly colorful species - yellow warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, and Bullock's oriole. Just this afternoon, we spotted a female Black-headed grosbeak foraging at the foot of our flowering crab apple.
It all makes me think I want to focus on planting fruit-bearing shrubs and native grasses rather than on trying to keep the squirrels that squabble over my compost pile out of feeders my target bird species might not even visit.