The Bird Garden
Benefits of a Bird Garden
There are many benefits to attracting birds to your outdoor space. Some types of birds will help pollinate flowers, while others will keep the bug population in check, and some will even decrease the spread of weeds. Birds can provide us with entertainment and help promote a deeper connection with nature. It has been shown that bird sounds and songs can help lower our stress levels. Birds also give us an opportunity to help our children find nature more interesting, so we can raise a more Earth conscious generation.
Common Alberta Birds
By providing a bird-friendly habitat, your outdoor space can attract a wide range of feathered friends to your yard. A few of our favourite backyard birds to spot here in Alberta include :
Black-Capped & Boreal Chickadees
House & Song Sparrows
Red and White Breasted Nuthatches
Yellow-Rumped & Orange Crowned Warblers
Downy, Hairy & Pileated Woodpeckers
Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for an extensive database to search for the birds you see in your garden. Cornell lab also offers the Merlin Bird App for your phone to identify birds -on the fly.
Bird Garden Key Features
BIRD FOOD SOURCES : Native plants are the healthiest way to feed wild birds. When choosing plants, be sure to include a variety of seeds, nuts, berries and fruit to attract a variety of birds. Minimize or omit your use of pesticides and let the bugs be another rich food source for birds.
BIRD FEEDERS : If using bird feeders, it is important to sterilize the feeders regularly, especially during the warmer months to avoid bacterial growth which can kill birds. Use a seed mix that includes a variety of seeds to attract a variety of birds. Sunflower seeds are popular among most birds.
HUMMINGBIRD FOOD SOURCES : For hummingbirds, choose flowering plants with staggered bloom times to ensure sources of nectar throughout the warm season.
HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS : When using hummingbird feeders, be sure to empty and sterilize feeders with boiling water once a week. Do not use soaps or chemicals when cleaning feeders; chemicals and antibacterial agents can kill hummingbirds. We also strongly recommend that you do NOT use red dyed pre-mixed hummingbird liquid feed. The red dye has been shown to be harmful to hummingbirds. Instead use a red feeder with a homemade simple syrup made from dissolving 1 part sugar in 4 parts distilled or RO water. It is not necessary to bring water to a boil so long as the sugar is fully dissolved. Be sure the simple syrup is room temperature before hanging the feeder outdoors to avoid scalding the hummingbird’s delicate digestive system. It is also a good idea to keep the feeders out of direct sun during hot summer months for the same reason.
In addition to plentiful rich food sources, birds also need easy and safe access to drinking water. Offer a clean source of water that is safe from predators. Many birds also enjoy bird baths to keep cool and help clean their feathers. When choosing a bird bath, there are a few things to consider. First choose a bath with moving water or add a solar fountain. Still water is a breeding ground for bacteria and bugs. Second, choose a bath that can be heated. This will extend the use of the bird bath well into our cold winters and help keep birds in your outdoor space year round.
Shelter & Nesting Sites
Different birds will have different preferences for shelters and nesting sites. Birds tend to shelter in four types of locations; consider including all four to optimize your bird garden.
TREES : Many species nest in tall trees to keep safe from predators. By including a tall tree or two you can increase the chances of birds nesting in your outdoor space.
EVERGREENS : Evergreens, especially Spruce and Junipers, have dense foliage which protect birds well from harsh weather conditions and most predators. Evergreens are especially beneficial to the bird species that overwinter here in Alberta. Every bird garden will do well to include at least a couple different evergreens.
BUILDING STRUCTURES : Another common spot for certain species are in small nooks and crannies of homes and other common building structures, like a gazebo.
BIRD HOUSES : Bird houses are another great option for many smaller birds. The size of the opening will determine which species will nest in a bird house.
Shopping for Birds
The Backyard Birds Nature Shop, located in Spruce Grove AB, has a wonderful selection of products for birds, everything from seeds, feeds, baths, houses and more.
The Wildbird General Store, located in Edmonton AB, also has a great selection, especially for birdhouses designed specifically for a variety of different birds.