MARCH PROGRAM RECAP
By WORC Member, Sherri Brom
Birds: Fostering Backyard Habitats to Attract Birds
Presented by Curtis Dykstra
If you love watching birds at your feeder but want to go beyond the feeder to attract more birds and help birds survive at the same time, this webinar is for you. Presented by Curtis Dykstra, Park Naturalist with Ottawa County, this webinar encourages us to think like a bird in order to provide the essentials for bird survival—food, water, and shelter.
Curtis begins by giving us information about Ottawa County Parks and its properties which includes over 7000 acres to explore. In particular Curtis talks about Hemlock Crossings Nature Park where he works as the Park Naturalist. This park includes a viewing area for birds and is a great place to come and enjoy birds.
Even though Curtis takes us beyond the bird feeder in this webinar, the bird feeder does play a significant role in attracting birds and adding to our enjoyment of watching and observing birds. Therefore, Curtis talks about the different types of feeders and seeds available and what to look for when buying seeds. He points out that diversity of seed and ways you feed birds are critical. Different birds prefer different types of seed and some birds prefer to eat on the ground. For instance, black oil sunflower seeds are the number one essential type of seed for birds. Suet is also good, especially for woodpeckers. Since hummingbirds and Orioles are a favorite of bird lovers, he addresses the best type of feed to attract these birds as well as reminding us to get feeders for these birds out by the end of April. He also addresses common feeder problems and offers some solutions to help address these issues.
Curtis encourages the planting of native plants as another option to provide seeds, berries and insects for birds. Native plants range from flowers to shrubs and trees. Curtis provides examples of native plants that are a good food source for birds and also references the Michigan Audubon Society as a good resource. A few examples of the native plants discussed include:
- Purple coneflowers
- Bee Balm
- Cardinal flowers
- High bush cranberry
- White Oak
- Black Cherry
- Red/Sugar Maple
Curtis reminds us that messy yards are the best! Leaving seed heads on plants, leaves on the ground, and delaying Spring cleanup, all help birds survive Winter and provide food sources.
The second essential survival element for birds is water. Birds use water for drinking and bathing. This is one of the most interesting parts of the presentation for me. Curtis discusses how birds like moving water and how sound is critical for attracting birds to water. He describes ways to provide water to birds beyond the traditional bird bath, offering suggestions on ways to make water more accessible and pleasing to birds. This includes adding a circulating pump or a dripper to move the water, providing varying depths of water and providing a safe and comfortable way for birds to access the water. Since April, May, and September are all critical months for migrating birds, providing water in these months is critical.
Lastly, Curtis talks about providing shelter for birds. Birds need shelter for protection, safety, and comfort with easy access to food and water. Bird boxes are beneficial for nesting and seasonal shelter. Curtis also discusses how to provide natural layering habitats for birds from the canopy down to the midstory and brush pile with pathways to water. Native plantings that provide shelter include but are not limited to Eastern red and white Cedar, Virginia Creeper, wild strawberry, and wild ginger.
Curtis concludes his presentation by reminding us if we think like a bird and provide food, water and shelter in concert with each other, that’s when birds are the happiest. If you missed this informative and interesting presentation, watch it on Youtube channel or on Vimeo. You can also download Curtis’ program Resources PDF for more information.