2007jan19finchhousemaletinneyIn my advertising over the past few weeks I have been using the phrase, “Give the gift of nature this Christmas season.” If you wanted to give gifts to your wild-feathered friends, what are some ideas of gifts you could give? Well, I am glad you asked, because I have some suggestions!

Habitat: Creating a bird-friendly yard is the most important thing you can do for wild birds. Granted, this can’t be done over night and certainly not before Christmas, but you can set a goal to create a wildlife-friendly yard. Use native plants in your landscaping. Plant a variety of trees, shrubs, succulents and grasses that will provide a year-round benefit to birds in the way of providing places to rear young, and to forage for seeds, berries, nectar and insects.

Far too many people have yards that are “landscaped” with decorative rock. A rock yard is a very sterile environment, providing little benefit to nature. If you want help with ideas on what you can do in your yard to cater to wildlife, come by the store or give me a call.

Housing: Providing nesting and roosting boxes for wild birds is a great way to meet a most basic need – a place to rear young and/or a place to roost at night where they can get out of the harsh elements – particularly in the winter months.

Food: Provide nutritional, healthy wild birdseed and feed products. Depending upon the season of the year, you can put out suet, fruit, berries, nectar or even a live food source such as mealworms. Providing different kinds of foods appeals to different kinds of birds. Quality wild birdseed with no filler ingredients is very important.

Water: Clean water is so important for all of nature. Water that is accessible when temperatures are below freezing is equally important. A reliable source of water year-round will attract birds to your yard even if you don’t provide bird food in your yard.

Pesticide free zone: Give your birds a healthy environment. Limit, or totally eliminate, the use of herbicides and pesticides in your yard. Pesticides are designed to kill bugs. What do birds eat? I tell people who are trying to attract birds to their yard that bugs are their friends! I know that sounds silly, but why would you try to kill the very thing that birds are seeking?

Safety: Take some time and give some thought to your yard. Do you allow your cats to roam freely outside? Don’t! Domestic and feral cats kill millions of wild birds each year. Are you experiencing window strikes where birds are flying into your windows? Do something to alleviate this hazard. Are your feeders healthy, or are they dirty and in a state of disrepair? Clean your feeders regularly. Get rid of old seed that is not healthy for the birds.

Volunteer: Give of your time and your means to organizations that are making a difference in our community to preserve and protect this incredible area. Organizations, such as the Prescott Audubon Society, the Highlands Center for Natural History or Prescott Creeks (and there are many more) are always looking for volunteers and can always use financial support as well.

By the time you read this, the Prescott Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count will be over, but unfortunately, my column was due before the count, so I will have to write about it next week and let you know how we did in our assigned area.