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Birding/Looking for suggestions to attract chickadees


front window
front window  
patio in backyard
patio in backyard  
QUESTION: I live in sioux falls, sd and am looking for suggestions to help attract more songbirds to my backyard, and front yard too.    

My backyard has an autumn blaze maple that is 30 feet tall.  And a young chinese apricot tree that is 8 feet tall, a young northstar cherry tree (approx 7 feet tall), a young honeycrisp apple that is 7 feet tall.  I also have 3 honeyberry bushes, and 3 arrow wood viburm bushes, 2 chokeberry bushes that i planted last summer. I also have a few raspberry bushes in a planter under the cherry tree. I am going to be planting a juneberry (or serviceberry) tree in the spring.  I have an open area underneath the landing of my patio steps that will see enough sunlight to support some bird attracting fruit shrubs or bushes. I'm wondering what you would suggest to attract some chickadees, nuthatches  or other various backyard songbird. (Lowbush blueberries? strawberries? huckleberries?)  

In my front yard, i am going to be planting a blueberry hedge on my property line, and also planting 2 highbush cranberry tree/bushs under my office window.  What would be a good fruit bearing (bird attracting) shrub to plant between the cranberries?

Or should i plant a highbush cranberry hedge, and plant blueberries underneath my office window?    I'm trying to attract songbirds and if i get a little bit of the fruit for myself, thats just a bonus.

ANSWER: . Thanks for the photos. That helps. Virtually any bush or shrub with small fruit will help to attract birds, but it looks like your back and front yards are in a new housing development. It looks awfully bare. You need to plant a lot all around the yard to attract birds and it would help if your neighbors did too. Any tree under the landing won't be attractive to birds because its too sheltered and close to the house, but it will help. First thing to do is put up a bird feeder.

Food: Chickadees eat a wide variety of foods, including insects, seeds and fruit. To offer them adequate food in the backyard, plant flowering trees or berry-producing shrubs that will attract insects and minimize pesticide use. At feeders, black oil sunflower seeds, shelled peanuts, suet and peanut butter are chickadees' favorite foods, offered in tray, tube or hopper feeders. Growing sunflowers is another way to offer food to these birds, and they'll happily cling to the flower heads as they feed. Peanut butter or soft suet can even be smeared directly on the bark of a tree for foraging chickadees to enjoy.

Water: Chickadees will visit bird baths for drinking and bathing, but because they are small birds, shallow baths are a must. If a bird bath basin is too deep, adding a smaller dish inside it or scattering river rocks or gravel along the bottom can make it a better depth. Drippers or other moving water will attract chickadees with a bit of noise. Heated bird baths are essential in the winter, as these birds do not migrate and will need a source of fresh water even in the coldest weather.

Shelter: Both deciduous and coniferous trees provide shelter for these birds, as will thick areas of shrubbery. Evergreen trees and shrubs are crucial for winter chickadee shelters, and they will readily use roosting boxes or roosting pockets to stay warm in poor, cold weather.

Nesting Sites: Chickadees are cavity-nesting birds and will easily use bird houses of the proper dimensions: the preferred house size for chickadees is eight inches tall with a four- or five-inch square base and an entrance hole measuring 1 1/8 inches. Chickadee houses should be mounted on a tree, wall or pole 4-15 feet above the ground. A scattering of wood shavings or sawdust inside the house can encourage chickadees to nest, and offering nesting materials such as pet fur or small bits of string can also attract nesting chickadees.

Chickadees are not shy birds and are easily attracted to bird-friendly backyards, but to make your yard even more suitable...

Plant trees and shrubs of different sizes in mixed clumps to provide better foraging areas.
Provide suitable perches near feeders so chickadees can flit away to a safe spot to eat each seed.
Protect chickadees from cats by keeping pets indoors or taking steps to discourage feral cats that will be irresistibly drawn to these acrobatic birds.
Hope all this helps

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: yes my house is 10 years old and only a few neighbors have planted trees.  I have a poplar in the front yard that is 40 feet tall, i planted a hackberry tree in the bvld last year that is now 8 feet tall.  i planted giant russian sunflowers in the corners of my backyard, and i have 6-8 bird feeders up.  tube, thistle, suet, peanut butter sticks, and a home made log suet feeder.  

under the landing i was thinking of planting some low bush blueberries, they dont need a lot of direct sun, and spread quite fast as i understand.  That would probably help attract songbirds.  

And any advice on the hedge?  blueberry or highbush cranberry?  the cranberries get taller and would most likely attract more wild life... the blueberries grow about 4 feet tall and apparently grow a lot of berries compared to the cranberry bushes.

Any plantings would help, but too close to the house will deter some birds. Berry bushes are overrated as bird attractors. Yes, they do attract some birds at times, but more than anything birds want and need cover and protection from predators. So cranberry or blueberry , I don't know - whatever you can make pie out of. Surround your bird feeders with shrubs; that will help a lot.


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Roger Lederer


Any and all about WILD birds - the science of ornithology. Information about birdwatching, ecology, conservation, migration, behavior, banding, rehabilitation, feeding, songs, binoculars, identification, and careers in ornithology. No questions about pet or caged birds, please.


Have a PhD and over forty years as a professional ornithologist - research, teaching, author, speaker, webmaster of . Have written thirty scientific papers, three bird field guides, a textbook in ecology four other bird books, the latest being "Beaks, Bones, and Bird Songs". Have traveled to 100 countries watching birds and have spoken to hundreds of groups about birds.

PhD in Zoology/Ornithology; Emeritus Professor of Biological Sciences; former Dean of the College of Natural Sciences at California State University, Chico

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