Attracting birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count

Attracting birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count

A downy woodpecker at a backyard feeder.

A downy woodpecker at a backyard feeder.

In many parts of North America, colder temperatures, falling snow, and freezing lakes and rivers make it harder for birds to survive. Here are a few tips to make life a bit easier for them and to attract them to your yard so you can count them when the Great Backyard Bird Count rolls around!

• Fill your feeders early. Many people only start feeding birds once winter arrives, but it can take weeks for birds to find your feeders. Put them out sooner or keep them filled year-round.

• Offer a bird buffet. Different species of birds have different food preferences. Safflower or black oil sunflower seeds appeal to the greatest variety of birds. Finches go for nyger seed (thistle), and suet will lure in woodpeckers, wrens, and Blue Jays.

•  Install a hot tub. Not for you—for the birds! Heated bird baths are a great way to attract birds in winter when other water sources may be frozen. You can buy bird baths with built-in heaters, or just add a waterproof heater to an existing bird bath.

• Give ‘em shelter. Help birds remain safe from predators. You can buy or build bird houses or roost boxes, or create a brush pile. Plant evergreens to give birds a place to rest.

What is the GBBC?

The 2012 GBBC will take place Friday, February 17, through Monday, February 20.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

Participants count birds anywhere for as little or as long as they wish during the four-day period. They tally the highest number of birds of each species seen together at any one time. To report their counts, they fill out an online checklist at the Great Backyard Bird Count website: www.birdsource.org/gbbc/

As the count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore what is being reported from their own towns or anywhere in the United States and Canada. They can also see how this year’s numbers compare with those from previous years. Participants may also send in photographs of the birds they see. A selection of images is posted in the online photo gallery.

Keep up with the Great Backyard Bird Count on Facebook and join the flock!