Bird Watching for the City Dweller | Attract Birds to your Small Yard!
Bird watching and the city dweller – Attracting birds to your small yard is a sinch!
Have you ever thought that because you live in the city and have a tiny yard that you couldn’t attract beautiful songbirds? Well, guess again! We live in the city and have more birds and wildlife visiting our yard than many people who live in the country. The size of your yard isn’t the issue, it’s what you do with that small space that matters. I’m going to show you how you too can attract birds to your small yard and bring nature closer to your home.
The city of North Tonawanda (where I live) isn’t as tightly packed as some of the bigger cities, but we still pack a punch. In 2016, North Tonawanda had a population of 30607 and we are only an area of 10.9 square miles (28.24 sq km). That’s a density rate of 2808 people per square mile. By comparison, the city of Buffalo is a much bigger city and is what I think of when I hear the word “city”. Buffalo covers an area of 52.5 square miles (136 sq km) and has a population of 256902 people or 4893 people per square mile.
That said, a typical city yard is approximately 1000-1500 square feet (92.90- 139.35 sq m). My yard is on a double lot and with house and garage is about 10400 square feet (966.19 sq m). However, the area directly behind my house where most of the action takes place is only 1300 square feet (120.77 sq m). That’s just an area 60 feet (18.28 m) deep and 22 feet (6.70 m) wide, and that is also the average size of many backyards in the city of Buffalo. Granted, our house backs up to a wooded area, but it’s not necessary in order to attract songbirds. The woods are nice in our case because it is home to many other wild critters that also visit our yard, such as skunks, possums, bunnies, deer, raccoons and wild turkeys.
To attract birds to your small yard, or any yard, you need three things: Food, Water and Shelter.
Let’s talk about the first item, a food source. Food can be provided in a number of ways and is the first step to attract birds to your small yard. The area of our yard that we are showcasing has an assortment of bird feeders and food options. We have a Hummingbird feeder, 2 Oriole feeders, 3 suet feeders, a platform feeder and 2 hopper feeders. Our feeders are mounted on poles or hang from simple shepherds hooks, available at Home & Garden stores with single or double hooks.
- Hummingbird Feeder: Fill with sugar water (nectar) – Attracts Hummingbirds.
- Oriole Feeder: Fill with oranges, grape jelly and/or grapes – Attracts Baltimore Orioles, Gray Catbirds & American Robins.
- Suet Feeders: There is a wide range of suet on the market, but the basic, cheapest ones work just fine – Attracts woodpeckers of all kinds, including Downy, Hairy, Red-Bellied & Northern Flickers, Gray Catbirds, Tufted Titmouse, Blue Jays, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Grackles, House Sparrows, Starlings & more.
- Platform Feeder: Fill with seeds, grapes, peanuts, bakery scraps or fruit – Attracts a variety of birds including all of the above and more (except Hummingbirds).
- Hopper Feeders: Fill with Black-Oil Sunflower seeds for best results – Attracts all of the above birds and Northern Cardinals, Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks, Chickadees, Goldfinches, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Finches & more (except Hummingbirds).
You can also easily hang a tube feeder; there are many different types available. Fill with Thistle Seed to attract Goldfinches and House Finches or fill with nuts to attract Woodpeckers, Blue Jays and such. The options are endless! Bird feeders don’t require much room at all (about 1 square foot or .09 sq m is all.)
The second item, a water source, can be as simple or complex as you choose. To attract birds to your small yard, simply add a bird bath. A bird bath not only provides water for thirsty birds, but also gives them a place to cool off and bathe. We have two bird baths on the side of our yard and the birds love them! Another water feature that the birds will love, and so will you, by the way, is a small pond. Ponds come in all sizes and shapes and there are a lot of pre-formed ponds that require very little space. We have one of these small ponds in our backyard and it was really easy to install. There is a small pump that runs the filter and waterfall and maintenance is a breeze! Plant some pretty flowers around it and you have a beautiful and tranquil place to sit and relax. You can even make a smaller pond-type water feature out of a half barrel (or a large garden planter)- just add an aquarium pump, filter and a plant or two and voila- instant pond! The bird bath or “barrel” water features only take up about 2 square feet (.18 sq m) so no yard is too small for one. Our pond, on the other hand, is only 4 1/2 feet (1.37 m) long by just 2 feet (.61 m) wide, so this is really easy to add to almost any backyard, no matter how tiny. We added a small waterfall to ours, but you can just add a fountain feature and have water spray upwards in a variety of patterns. Try adding a goldfish or two!
Lastly, the third item, shelter, can come in a variety of ways. A shelter can be as simple as a birdhouse placed on a pole or on the side of a fence, garage or other structure. Shelter can also be a tree or bush to provide protection from predators or a place to build a nest and raise a family. The overgrown grass at the back of your property or the low hanging branches on your evergreen tree can also provide shelter to small birds. Any place that gives birds cover and a place to hide or build a nest can be considered shelter and is a great addition to your yard. As with our other two requirements, providing shelter doesn’t require much space at all. The more space you have, the more shelter options you can provide. It doesn’t take much to offer a safe place and to attract birds to your small yard. A birdhouse alone only takes up about 1 square foot (.09 sq m) of space and you may already have a tree in your yard.
I hope this has shown you that no matter how tight space is, there is always room and a way to attract birds to your small yard. Even though our backyard is very small, we managed to place an 11-foot by 11-foot (3.35 x 3.5 m) deck and 5 gardens, including one with a 2-person swing. We also have a fire pit, 10 different bird feeders, a small pond and 3 birdhouses (14 birdhouses on the entire property). We have an assortment of flowering bushes, flowers (annuals and perennials) and even some raspberries. Plus, we have a dedicated feeding area for all of the cute critters that live in the woods.
The Birdhouse and Baltimore Oriole Feeder shown are exclusive items of Backyard Birdlady. Both items are custom-made by hand and made right here in the USA. You can order them from our online store at https://backyardbirdlady.com/store/
Good luck with your birding adventures! I’d love to hear what you have done to attract birds to your small yard and what birds you see. Please comment below. As always, keep those feeders filled and Happy Birding! ~ Karen