Wildlife and Nature Photography

Spring Yard Cleanup, It’s For The Birds

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Northern Cardinals are among the birds beginning to gather leaves and other nest materials. Leaving some behind when doing your yard cleanup will benefit your feathered friends.

Now that spring is upon us and warmer temperatures have finally arrived, many people are heading outdoors to begin their spring yard cleanup. Before you go cutting back and bagging everything that is not green, take a minute to think about the birds.

Spring is when birds begin nesting in our area, and many birds can now be observed rummaging through gardens looking for nest materials. If you are planning on doing some yard cleanup in the near future, consider leaving some materials for the birds. Dry leaves, grass, twigs and flower stocks are all used by many songbirds to construct a nest. If you are wanting to clear out your garden to expose freshly emerging tulips and daffodils, these materials can be placed in a different area of your yard, where the birds can access them.

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Dead tree branches and stumps around your property will attract woodpeckers like this Northern Flicker and other cavity nesting birds.

If you have dead branches on your property, and it is safe to do so, leave these as well. Dead branches serve two purposes: they attract insects, which as a result will attract woodpeckers and other birds; they also provide nest sites for a variety of cavity nesting birds.

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Black-capped Chickadee excavating a nest cavity in a dead willow tree.

Many people only feed the birds during winter months, taking their feeders down once spring arrives. Spring is an equally important time of year to feed the birds as there is not always an abundance of natural foods around. Most of the seeds and berries from last season have long since been consumed, while this year’s crop is months away. Birds returning from their wintering grounds have traveled thousands of kilometers in some cases, and need to replace spent energy.

Leaving your feeder up throughout the migration period will provide these birds with much needed nourishment. I personally leave my feeders out year round, because after the migration period, adult birds begin bringing their young to the feeders.

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Placing fruit around your yard is a great way to assist Robins and other non-seed eating birds while natural foods are scarce.

Since several birds do not regularly accept seed offerings, fruit can be substituted. Robins and Cedar Waxwings can both benefit, especially on cooler days when insects are hard to come by, from fruit placed around your yard. Baltimore Orioles, when they return in a few weeks, will readily accept oranges cut in half or sliced. Make sure the fruit is fresh, and has not gone moldy or spoiled.

Spring is a perfect time to make sure your feeders are clean. Washing your feeders regularly with warm water and an eco-friendly dish detergent will help ensure your backyard birds stay healthy by preventing disease. Use an old toothbrush to remove any feces, moldy or stuck on seed. Rinse your feeder thoroughly and ensure it is completely dry before refilling.

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Leaves, twigs and various yard materials are gathered by Northern Cardinals and other birds to build nests.

Fresh water is equally important to birds. If you put your birdbath away last fall, it is time to get it out and fill it up. Clean water is essential, so be sure to change the water regularly. If you have a water feature or fountain in your yard, make sure the water is clean and the pump is running. Resident and migrating birds with both be looking to bathe and drink from the running water. In fact, water is a better attractor of birds than food is. If you don’t already have one, add a birdbath or other water source to your yard if you are wishing to attract more birds.

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Even with a seemingly slow start to spring birds, including the Red-winged Blackbird, are arriving on schedule.

Despite a winter that seemed like it would never end, and a relatively slow start to spring, bird migration is on schedule. Many of the birds we expect to see by this time have returned. Blackbirds, American Robins, several sparrow species, and swallows have all been observed in our area. This past week I observed my first of year Eastern Phoebe and Hermit Thrush, both right on schedule. Over the next coupe of weeks we will see another big push of songbirds return to our area. Baltimore Orioles, Indigo Buntings, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and of course, the warblers will all be arriving. Will your yard be ready to welcome these birds with open arms?

Good birding,

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