I love spring for a number of reasons excluding the mud. Mostly I love spring because of the subconscious and conscious awareness of the increase in the number of birds and bird songs around our place. Although we have many species of birds that hang out year round, in the spring the “melody” level amplifies quite a bit.
On our landscape we have open grass pastures, gardens, tree windbreaks, buildings and several sources of exposed water due to the livestock tanks, bird bath and our drip lines that provide moisture for the tree lines. Our property is surrounded by miles of other properties with limited trees and shrubbery until you get six miles over to the river valley. So probably get more than our share of birds simply due to the habitat variety. But I think the continual flow of bird seed, suet and nectar provided at our house contributes to the attraction quite a bit.
Diverse food sources are important for a variety of bird species with natural diet components such as insects, grain residue, fruiting shrubs and evergreens adding year-long repasts for different species. Even the owls seem to cohabitate with other species on a regular schedule. The cherry trees in the garden seem popular during the summer. And I know the flowering plants set in by my spouse attract many birds. With all of that being said the bird feeders still seem to be the most popular although tend to enjoy picking through the lawn more than anything else.
I have noticed at least 14 species which take intermittent turns at our bird bath. They do argue about priority at times then the flocks of sparrows and wrens shoot off to perch on the power lines and edges of the stock tanks before circling back.
Once of the most important elements that draws birds back to some yards is the level of shelter provided. Our tree lines have juniper shrubs, lilacs, pine trees and spruce all behind a board windbreak. This situation allows for collections of insects also which can be used by some species. Our buildings (shops and barns) provide many nooks and crannies for small nests. Unfortunately some opening allow birds and nestlings to enter the garage where they tend to see the windows as an exit. I open it every morning to allow “fly aways”.
An subset of shelter is the absence of bird predators. We are thin on snakes at our home. Housecats and feral cats tend to come no closer than the hay stacks since our stockdogs are not very tolerant of them. It’s a little too busy around our place for hawks although the owls make regular annual visits. One cattle dog historically chased birds from the yard but has shifted his focus to rabbits for the last few years.
I do miss seeing a number of subspecies of hummingbirds fight over feeders like when we lived along the New Mexico border. I also miss seeing the bluebirds pass through our Nebraska cattle pastures from one placed bluebird house to the next in the spring.
I am not very tolerant of ravens, magpies and vultures due to a long history of looking for downed livestock on rangelands but we all have a bias and they do have their functions. It’s just nice to hear the melody in the morning and evening. Sadly we do have a dove which nested for years at our place with its mate. This year it is alone. The mate obviously did not successfully make the long journey. The dove calls endlessly for its partner.
If you are interested in enhancing the number of bird species at your house remember the keys of food and shelter. Try these sites for information: