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Many who choose to put a bird feeder in their backyard may be motivated by personal or selfish reasons. After all, who doesn’t enjoy watching nature just outside their door while enjoying a warm delicious breakfast inside? What you may not know, however, is that placing bird feeders in your yard does more than allow you to experience nature from your home.
From relieving stress to helping the general health of birds, feeders in your yard actually serve a wide range of purposes. Read on to find out why bird feeders make such a great addition to your yard, and also to your local ecosystem.
The first, and perhaps most obvious benefit of having a feeder in your yard is also the reason most homeowners decide to install them. Bird feeders turn your yard into an opportunity to view local wildlife and bird species, all from the comfort of your home. Different areas of the country offer different selections of birds, and there’s much you can do to attract a diverse range of species to your home.
Different types of feeders, seeds, and providing water or native plants can help increase the attractiveness of your feeding station, and broaden the variety of birds you see in your yard. Check out our article for more specifics and helpful information on how to attract more birds to your feeder.
Feeding birds can open an unexpected educational opportunity for people of all ages. From kids, to teens, to adults, everyone can find joy in learning and identifying new species of birds. Simply by observing, you can learn much about the behavior, social patterns, and personalities of different bird species. Learning can be a year-round experience, as the species you attract to your yard are likely to change with the seasons.
Anyone who has ever been to the beach or taken a long hike in the woods can attest to the soothing qualities of experiencing nature. Bird watching fits comfortably into the same category, and is a great way to relax without ever leaving your home. The natural beauty and sounds of chirping birds can help clear your mind, and give a sense of peace to otherwise hectic mornings or evenings. Taking a small amount of time out of your day to actively engage in an activity such as bird watching can promote healthy habits like mindfulness, and go a long way in reducing your overall stress levels.
Improves the Health of Birds
The life of wild birds revolves around finding food. On average, many bird species need as much as 10,000 calories per day in order to live healthfully. So it may come as no surprise that birds living in areas with ample access to bird feeders and other food resources are healthier overall than other wild bird populations.
Bird feeders are generally a supplemental source of food to many wild birds, who expend much of their energy in a day foraging for food. Greater access to bird feeders reduced the amount of time and energy that birds need to exert in the act of foraging. This helps bird populations maintain weight and body composition, and lowers their overall stress levels. All of this contributes to a healthier population of birds in your area.
Helping the Next Generation of Birds
As mentioned, much of a bird’s life and energy is spent foraging for food. When summer comes, and bird populations begin to nest and reproduce, this only becomes a more significant part of life. Giving wild birds access to reliable food sources, and keeping those food sources clean, actually helps the next generations of birds thrive.
A study by Milliken University has shown that areas with significant access to bird feeders have 38% higher survival rates for juvenile bird populations. It also showed that these areas have populations where more overall birds are recruited into the breeding population. Not only does this mean that young birds are more likely to survive, but those same birds will go on to reproduce more young.
By providing reliable food sources, you are not only helping to sustain your wild bird population, but also ensuring its stability for generations to come.
Year Round Food Source
Some may think that bird feeders are only important at certain times of the year or during certain seasons. This belief is incorrect. Supplemental food is important for birds at all times of the year. During winter, natural food sources like flowers, insects, and seeds may be scarce or much harder to find. Having a consistent food source helps birds maintain the body weight that they need to safely endure long winters.
In summer, though more natural food sources are readily available, the boom in bird populations can contribute to competition over resources. As mentioned, in these seasons birds that are nesting may also spend much of their energy foraging. Putting out feeders reduces the strain of competition, and allows birds to spend less time and energy foraging, creating more successful reproduction rates and overall health of wild birds.
Not all birds migrate, but those that do expend huge amounts of energy in their long flights. Some may worry that providing food in the fall or winter months may interfere with natural processes such as migration. This is untrue. Because migration patterns are driven by weather, instinct, and length of days, feeding birds will not disrupt natural migration patterns.
In fact, due to the toll these long flight patterns take on migratory birds, one of the best ways you can assist these species is to provide them ample access to reliable food sources. Even if you think all members of a certain species of bird have left your area, providing food for possible stragglers or late fliers is hugely helpful in their journey, and also great for birds who do not leave your area in the winter months.
Bees aren’t the only great contributor to pollination in your yard! Though insects certainly play a large role in the pollination of crops and flowers, birds are also crucial players in this natural occurrence.
Birds, such as hummingbirds, that feed on nectar from flowers in your yard are excellent pollinators. This process can help your flower beds become fuller, and more vibrant, and overall improve the health of the flowering plants in your yard. In turn, you can spend less time gardening, and more time enjoying your landscaping.
As we know, yard feeders naturally increase the population and variety of birds in your yard. What you may not know is that most birds eat more than the seed or suet provided to them by typical feeders. Many birds also feast daily on pest insects such as beetles and spiders. This makes them a great form of natural pest control!
The more birds you have in your yard, the larger quantity of pest-like insects will be consumed. This reduces the need for chemical pesticides that can protect your plants, but also cause damage to local wildlife populations, as well as sicken domestic pets like dogs and cats. Blackbirds, bluebirds, and sparrows love to dine on insects.
If mosquitos are driving you crazy, there are many species of birds that make a meal of them. Barn swallows, bluebirds, and even hummingbirds all eat these seasonal nuisances and can make your backyard a more enjoyable, and less itchy, place to spend time. If pest control is one of your goals in installing feeders, it may be worth catering your landscape, feeders, and food offerings to those species.
If you struggle with weeds running rampant in your yard or garden, but are resistant to the idea of introducing toxic or potentially harmful chemicals, more birds may be your answer. Having more birds in your yard not only increases pollination of flowers, and decreases insect pests, but it can also reduce the amount of lawn weeds you experience.
Because so many bird populations’ meal of choice is seeds, increasing the population of birds such as finches and sparrows may mean less overall weeds for you. These birds will consume not only the seed provided by you at your feeder but those provided naturally as well. This includes unwanted plants such as thistle, reducing the opportunity for these weeds to spread their seeds across your lawn.
Restoring Natural Habitats
One of the biggest threats to native bird populations is the reduction of their natural habitats and food sources due to development and land clearing. When land is cleared, not only does it strip the area of food sources, but it clears nesting areas and habitats as well. If you are committed to increasing bird traffic to your feeders, then you may inevitably be participating in the restoration of these species’ natural habitats- sometimes without even realizing it!
To attract the maximum amount and variety of birds to your yard, planting native plant species is a must. But you are not only providing them with food. These natural plants offer them nesting material, places to shelter, and act as replacements for the habitats that have been actively destroyed.
Bird Feeders Are for More Than Just Bird Watching!
Though one of the biggest, and most obvious draws of a backyard feeder is the opportunity to unwind and watch the beauty of wild bird populations from your home, you may be doing more for these populations than you know. By putting feeding stations in your yard you are doing everything from helping nesting and breeding populations, restoring natural habitats, and even reducing weeds and pests in your own backyard. If you’ve been on the fence about placing feeders in your yard, take this as a sign to invest today. Your local birds will thank you!