Follow by Email

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The importance of creating small habitats for north Texas' wild birds

House Finch
Scarlet Tanager
Tiny, private spaces can easily be transformed into “bird magnets”.  It’s necessary since birds don’t really care if you own ten acres or ten square feet. To them, ownership of land is meaningless. Birds might choose to forage in a utility easement, cavort in a park a mile away, get a sip of water from a puddle in a parking lot, nest in your neighbor's yard and eat from a feeder on your balcony. A lot of their routine is up to you.
As people are living closer together, more and more products are being made or adapted for use in small spaces like balconies, patios and “postage stamp” courtyards. This is vital since bird habitat is disappearing at an alarming rate.

Wood Thrush
If you have only a tiny patch of ground, consider a pole-mounted system. This lets you put several types of feeders on just one pole. The pole can be simply be stuck in as little as one square foot of ground.  And don't forget a birdbath! Also, at this time of year, one feeder could certainly feed nectar to the amazing little Hummingbirds. (Then, next fall, you can easily exchange it for a feeder for our “winter-only” Goldfinches.)

Many feeders can be mounted on windows, using heavy-duty suction cups. There is almost no danger of birds flying into a window with this type of feeder.   Reason: the bird is in a slow ”landing pattern” when he’s within two feet of a feeder, so he’s alert to the surroundings. The real danger zone is if a feeder is about 2 to 6 feet from a window. At this distance a bird, circling the feeder (and concentrating on its location) isn’t paying attention to a nearby window. To be extra-cautious, stick some sort of ribbon or decal on the glass.

Seed residue can be a problem. To avoid this entirely, use a variety of seed that has had the outside hull removed. Since the birds don’t have to remove the hull from the seed, there’s no hull to fall to the ground. Or to fall on your balcony. The goal, however, is to entice the birds to eat every last seed.

Of course, if a seed is fresh (even if the hull is left on), any that falls to the ground will likely be eaten by ground-feeding birds – like Cardinals. Thrashers and Doves. So, even if the price is a bit more, get the seed that’s freshest from the mill. More of it gets eaten and less of it winds up beneath the feeder. If you can clean up the hulls beneath a feeder, go ahead and buy the less-expensive seed with hulls.

Seed that’s blended especially for our Texas birds is best for small spaces too – more of it gets eaten. Some “cheap” seed blends are loaded with filler that Texas birds don’t eat; like milo and corn. You pay for it, but it just ends up on the ground.
Violet-crowned hummer

Of course, nectar feeders (for Hummingbirds) and nut feeders (for almost all birds) make hardly any mess, and are great for small spaces.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
 Feeding the birds isn’t complete without bird habitat – even if it's just a tiny bit! Several pots of flowers, even a few planted with shrubs, give birds personal places. They need some of these to wait for their turn at the feeder, crack open a seed or just sit and relax. A small space that’s nothing but a grille and lawn chairs isn’t appealing to birds. A tiny patch of vegetative habitat is!



  1. I thoroughly enjoy reading your blogs. They help a lot in turning my acre of land into a natural habitat.
    Would you have any natural ideas for controling grasshoppers.I hate to spray insectidide as it will kill off the good insects

    1. Grasshoppers are subject to a water-borne fungus that usually kills them. So if you can lightly water your landscape often, it'll reduce the grasshopper population dramatically and actually help the birds and vegetation.