Scooter’s New Year’s Top Ten List: Creating Backyard Habitats to Attract the Best of Florida’s Wild Birds (Because he’s an addict and just wants their seed!)
Well, Scooter Squirrel has stored his tree, has sent the familial “nuts” packing and is now wondering on a fruitful and exciting new year borrowing (Scooter is in denial. He’s an addict and it’s stealing! He knows it and so do we!) seed, nuts and suet from his wild bird cousins as they visit the Northwood Commons Backlot in Clearwater. Join Scooter in his planning options and ask yourself how you and your family can use your own yard as an oasis for Florida’s beautiful wild birds. No need to wait for Spring, either. Luckily, in Florida, we can start early and plan ahead for spring and summer plant growth, wild bird breeding and migrations.
“How can we best create an inviting and beneficial backyard habitat that both pleases the eye and serves as a safe and healthy place for Clearwater’s native wildlife to flourish?”
Attracting a wide variety of wild birds to our homes isn’t just about what we’d like to gain from them; it’s also about what they can gain from us. Florida homeowners and wild birds alike can serve well-meaning purposes and live in harmonious recognition of what can be a natural and beneficial relationship.
Florida’s wild bird populations are some of the most wondrous and beautiful in the world. This advantage can be fostered by any Floridian and is often welcomed by local habitat and conservation organizations like the Clearwater and St. Petersburg chapters of the Audubon Society as well as the Florida Wildlife Extension offices at the University of Florida.
Although creating a safe and healthy backyard habitat is relatively simple and easy, there are a few items of note related to a successful and healthy habitat design at home. There are many ways to create an attractive backyard habitat but the trick is to make one that birds will visit regularly and breed in safely!
Here is Scooter’s list of 10 easy, simple and inexpensive ways you can create a safe and welcoming backyard habitat for Florida’s wild bird populations.
1) Ask a Professional
Wild Birds Unlimited in Safety Harbor/Clearwater has staff certified in wild bird care. Our certified bird feeding specialists are trained to know which type of feeder, seed and housing best suits the special needs of Florida’s wild bird populations. Along with the inside scoop on seed and housing, WBU Clearwater/Safety Harbor helps with backyard habitat design planning. Using a large touch-screen monitor at the store, owner Carl Albritton can help advise clients on the best placement options for new plantings, bird houses, feeders and fountains to garner the most wild bird activity in your yard.
2) Only Use Quality Feed and Seed
Much of the commonly marketed wild bird seed is actually filler made up of seed husks, cereal and a myriad of nutritionally deficient by-products. While tempting to a bird, much of this will leave them dissatisfied with the food and will cause them to head for greener pastures – literally! Quality seed will come husk-free, be full of whole seeds like sunflower, safflower and shelled peanuts, and will be listed according to the preference per bird type.
3) Keep Feeders and Houses Clear
Placement of feeders and houses can make or break a successful backyard habitat. Areas that may be noisy – for example, near an A/C unit or bright utility lighting, can cause wild birds to avoid the areas all together. Place feeders and houses in well viewed areas, free from distracting noises or activities and near plants and trees where birds may roost while they eat or nest in safety.
4) Provide Supplemental Nesting Materials
Although wild birds are adept at finding nesting materials on their own, certain factors can, at times, cause difficulties. Providing nesting materials such as WBU wool bundles and natural substances readily available around the house, can help Florida’s wild birds in their search. Hair cuttings, twine, mowed grass clippings, yarn and clean fluff will offer tempting materials for a soft, safe and healthy nest.
5) Keep Cats at Bay
Clearwater’s household pets, especially cats, can cause a great deal of harm to Florida’s wild bird populations… not to mention Scooter’s! It is suggested that if you intend to create a backyard habitat in your Florida home, that you keep household pets indoors and away from places where birds may gather.
6) Specified Plantings
WBU Clearwater/Safety Harbor recommends suitable plants for your backyard habitat. Along with local nurseries including Wilcox (a partner of Wild Birds Unlimited’s Nature Shop in Safety Harbor/Clearwater, Florida) WBU suggests a variety of both tall trees and low lying, dense shrubs to ensure wild bird visitors can safely roost and nest while enjoying the benefits of your feeders.
7) Provide a Water Source
Even in Florida, year-round water sources are as important for a successful backyard habitat as is the food provided. Birds use water to feed on as well as for bathing. Any water source can be provided as long as it is kept clean and is provided in a safe container.
8) Get Neighbors Involved
Encourage neighbors to place feeders and houses on their property and invite them to share in the beauty of attracting Florida’s wild birds throughout your neighborhood. Once wild birds become familiar with a tempting, safe and healthy environment, they will return time after time to feed, nest and raise their young.
9) Make a Log of Visiting Birds
Keep a small journal and, if possible, take pictures of visiting birds. Include dates, times, feeder or house location (if you have more than one) and which type of food the wild bird visited the most. With this information, you can make better decisions as to which food and placement of feeders and houses works best for each type of wild bird visitor. Besides… it’s a fun activity!
10) Practice Patience
Like waiting for water to boil, watching for birds to feed or nest in your newly designed backyard habitat can be frustrating. Envision and appreciate the small accomplishments. House sparrows, finches and the usual guests are all eager wild bird visitors in our Florida yards. We love them! But, we must admit that seeing a brightly colored cardinal, monk parakeet, hummingbird or swift makes for an exciting view! They will come! Ask Carl or Karen or any of the trained Wild Birds Unlimited staff in your local Safety Harbor/Clearwater store about patterns of wild bird migrations so you can plan your feeding type and schedule accordingly.
Scooter would LOVE to see your backyard habitat designs. Be famous!!! Send your pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org and Scooter will post them on the blog and our WBU Clearwater/Safety Harbor website!
For more detailed and local information on how you can create a safe and harmonious backyard habitat for your wild bird visitors (and Squirrels!!) check out WBU Clearwater/Safety Harbor’s FAQ page!
- Ooohhh! It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmaaaas… but not in Florida! (northwoodcommonsbackyardbirdblog.com)
- Gift Giving is for the Wild Bird Watchers! (northwoodcommonsbackyardbirdblog.com)
- Backyard Birding: Two great books for those who enjoy birds at home (mlive.com)
- Beyond My Window: Backyard Songbird Conservation – Feeder Safety (reikiwmc.wordpress.com)