Column: The hobby of backyard birding brings enjoyment
Years ago, when we landscaped our yard, we made every effort to plant trees and shrubs that fulfilled two specific criteria. First, they had to be native plants (if not native to Prescott, then at least native to Arizona), and second, they had to provide some kind of benefit to wild birds.
We wanted a variety of plants that would produce nectar, seeds, berries and fruit. In addition to producing food for birds, we wanted the plants we chose to act as a host for insects as there are many species of birds that foliage glean for insects. Another component of our landscaping efforts was to provide places where birds could seek shelter from the elements, as well as places where they could nest and rear their young.
While that may seem like a lot of requirements, it is not difficult to achieve. There are so many great native plants that thrive in this area that are perfect for attracting native birds to one’s yard.
It didn’t take long to reap the benefit of our landscaping efforts, and to this day we are still being rewarded. We are currently enjoying an influx of phainopepla activity in our yard due to choke cherry trees that are absolutely weighed down by countless clusters of ripe, juicy berries.
Different kinds of birds each have their own unique preferred food. Nectar producing plants, for example, will attract hummingbirds and orioles. Seed-producing plants, such as Russian sage and wild sunflowers, will attract lesser goldfinches. Berry-producing plants, such as manzanita, Wright’s silk tassel and choke cherry, will attract phainopepla and American robins. The key to attracting a wide variety of birds to your yard is to create a natural birdy buffet through landscaping.
Another critical component to attracting birds is to provide a source of water. Also, if you chose to, you can supplement what the birds are finding in nature with human-provided food sources, such as oriole and hummingbird feeders, seed and suet feeders, and seed blocks and cylinders. The adage, “Build it and they will come,” can be easily modified to say something like, “Put out quality bird feed and they will come.”
The hobby of backyard bird feeding allows you to engage in this hobby from the comfort of your home. There are many hobbies such as golf, tennis or pickleball, where you have to go somewhere else to participant. Birding is as easy as looking out your window and observing what is happening in your yard—or in your neighbor’s yard!
Last Thursday, the day my column about woodpeckers drinking at hummingbird feeders ran in The Daily Courier, I received the following email from a customer, “Read your article online this morning and saw the picture of the woodpecker drinking out of the hummingbird feeder. While my wife and I were outside drinking coffee, that woodpecker came to our hummingbird feeder and started drinking. First time in our 20 years of watching birds that we have ever seen this, and it was while we were reading your article. If I had heard this story from someone else I would not have believed it.”
Needless to say, I loved the email! It makes me happy, and it is very fulfilling when individuals have experiences which allow them to create a deeper connection with nature. We are blessed to live in the Central Highlands area where we are surrounded by all kinds of nature. In just a few weeks we will be unveiling our new Birds of the Arizona Central Highlands folding guide to further enhance your knowledge of the birds in our area.
Until next week, Happy Birding!
Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, with three locations in northern Arizona – Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff. Eric has been an avid birder for over 50 years. If you have questions about wild birds that you would like discussed in future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.