Bird watching, feeding and attracting birds in Brainerd
is nothing more exhilarating than seeing that pileated
woodpecker swoop to your feeder, or the tractor sound
of a hummingbird's wings as it hovers over your flower
bed. The songs of a cardinal bring out special emotions,
and what about the many imitations put out by those
rascals, the catbirds? One of the most prolific and
fastest growing hobbies in Brainerd Lakes Country is
bird watching. Getting birds to your yard can be easy
if you know the right things to do to attract them/
Experience has shown that there are three components
that attract the feathered creatures to your backyard:
habitat enhancements, water and food.
Our setting is a home nestled in an open one-quarter
acre, which is surrounded by acres of mature jack pines,
birch and aspen. The overstory is high and dense and
originally there was no low growing brush beneath.
Many birds are attracted to sites that provide them
with brush and cover. To compensate for the lack of
cover, we immediately began planting shrubs along the
forest woodline. We planted numerous elderberry bushes
since they grow rapidly and provide wonderful fruit
for catbirds, robins and others. They also provide cover
for the white throated sparrows and juncos as these
birds migrate through the area.
Clavey's dwarf honeysuckle was also planted to provide
cover and it was discovered that their early non-descript
yellow blooms in the spring provide nectar for early
arriving hummingbirds. Other shrubs that provide cover
and food for birds include: highbush cranberries, shadblow
serviceberries, pagoda dogwoods and flowering crabs.
If you have pagoda dogwoods or serviceberries you will
no doubt see robins, catbirds and even waxwings fighting
over the fruit. Balsam firs are excellent trees to provide
all season protection. Remember, you need both food
and areas that provide shelter and cover as many birds
do not like to be in wide open areas and therefore easily
exposed to predators.
Thirdly, birds need water and by adding a source you
will get more birds to your yard. Our yard hosts a small
ornamental pond. A part of this pond includes a trickling
waterfall and creek. The splashing water and the noise
from the falling water attracts birds. Hummingbirds
enjoy the spray generated from the splashing action
of the falls and in the spring and early fall the warblers
pour in for bathes. Throughout the summer, redstarts,
robins, catbirds, cardinals and even woodpeckers enjoy
the waterway and pond for bathing and drinking.
A pagoda dogwood and a sumac along the edge of the
waterway have branches that overhang and provide a landing
pad for birds. Remember, birds need water in all seasons
and to attract them you have to provide for their needs.
There are very affordable "heated" water dishes
available that you can put out for the winter months.
Feed and the type of feeders are also important. To
attract the greatest number of birds utilize a variety
of feeders in your landscape. In our landscape we have
hanging tubes with niger feed for our goldfinches and
siskins; groundfeeders for cardinals and juncos; standing
feeders for the chickadees, blue jays, both nuthatches;
and suet feeders for the downy, hairy and pileated woodpeckers,
as well as the brown creepers. And don't forget to throw
some seed on the ground for the sparrows and juncos.
During the late spring, summer and early fall, nectar
feeders will attract hummingbirds and orioles. We also
have a feeder that is is filled with grape jelly for
the orioles. The key is to provide a number of opportunities
at various height levels to attract the greatest number
and varieties of birds. Remember to clean and sanitize
feeders frequently as they can host a large amount of
When considering types of feed, remember that different
species favor different types of food. Sunflower seeds
are a staple, but also mix in safflower seed, millet,
cracked corn and peanuts. If you have it, during the
summer put out dried fruit and even meal worms. For
an added treat put out whole unsalted peanuts and watch
the blue jays pretend to bury them.
One of the things we have learned here in the Brainerd
Lakes Country is to purchase several good birding books.
Warblers can be hard to identify and this will help
immensely. Secondly, have a good set of binoculars at
hand near your window. Finally, keep a journal with
daily entries. Record when the yellow bellied sapsuckers,
orioles, hummingbirds and chipping sparrows return and
leave. These note will prove valuable in the future.
Most importantly, feed all year and be a good host.
The rewards far outweigh the expense and you are the