Chinese astrology may say it’s the year of the dog, but according to the Connecticut Audubon Society, every year is the year of the bird. “Birds are always front and center in our minds,” contends Patrick Comins, executive director of the Connecticut Audubon Society. “We have more than 400 different species of birds in Connecticut. You never know what’s going to show up.”
Bird watching can be a fun pastime. “People love birds — the way they look, the way they sound, and the way it makes them feel to take care of the birds in their yard,” explains Joe Warren, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Darien. “Birds are attractive and sing beautiful songs all day long.”
There are many ways for avid bird watchers to invite a variety of these creatures into their yard. “Get a feeder, hang it out, and birds in your backyard will love you!” says Warren. “Our most popular feeder is a spring loaded device that allows birds to feed because they’re light, but prevents squirrels from eating the seed because they’re too heavy. Our Hot Pepper products are also designed to thwart the squirrels and other nuisance animals,” he explains. For goldfinches, Warren suggests the EcoClean and Quick-Clean Finch Feeders. “These feeders protect food from excess moisture and are easy to clean with their removable bases,” he says.
Warren’s best selling item is bird seed. “We only sell seed that’s fresh and will be eaten by the birds in our yard,” he says. The store also carries birdhouses and birdbaths. To attract more birds to your birdbath, try the Water Wiggler, which, according to Warren, creates ripples in the water to attract birds’ attention. The ripples also prevent mosquitoes from using the bath as a breeding ground.
Comins explains the positive impact of bird watching: “They’re fun to watch, they’re interesting, and it’s a great way to keep your brain active. There’s always something new to learn about them,” he says, naming some varieties of birds we can see in our yards: “Robins are very conspicuous and blue jays are fairly common. We have a lot of ovenbirds and red-eyed Vireo [songbird]. We also see hummingbirds, titmice, and Fledgling Chickadees. In August there are more varieties as wintering birds arrive.”
Comins recommends keeping birdbaths and bird feeders clean. “Don’t keep piles of seeds on the ground because they can get moldy,” he says. “Birdbaths are one of the best ways to attract birds, particularly in late summer when it’s dry. Orioles and warblers don’t go to the feeder as much, but they’ll go to water.”
For Phil Cyr, store manager for Benedict’s Home & Garden in Monroe, birds bring happiness. “It’s an enjoyable pastime to feed them and watch them. It’s neat to see the different colors and varieties at your feeders and listening to their calls is nice,” Cyr states.
Benedict’s carries a variety of birdbaths, including glazed ceramic, concrete, and plastic. “We have leaf-shaped, glass birdbaths with colors in them. It’s good to give birds a source of water,” Cyr says. The store also carries assorted birdhouses and feeders made by the Amish. “Most popular are the squirrel-proof feeders … they feature a cage which drops over the hole so the squirrels can’t reach the food,” he explains, also suggesting hummingbird feeders because the birds flutter to them, insert their beaks, and suck out the nectar, something squirrels can’t do.
Benedict’s sells bird seed, including black oil sunflower, which most birds enjoy. “Thistle or finch seed attracts smaller birds. Suet is also quite popular. We have different varieties — peanut butter, fruit flavored, and hot pepper that squirrels don’t like,” Cyr says. Also, the nursery carries ornamental plants that attract birds, such as holly bushes, junipers, and dogwood trees.
“We sell a hummingbird magnet called a Cuphea plant — also known as the Large Firecracker Plant — which has nectar and colorful flowers that attract these birds,” explains Sean McNamara, owner of the Redding Nursery in Redding. “We started putting these plants in our planters on our back deck and the hummingbirds come every day to visit them.” Other plants include the Eastern Red Juniper and crabapple. Sunflowers also produce seeds in late summer and early fall. Birds that feed on sunflowers include titmice, goldfinches, chickadees, and red-bellied woodpeckers.
Reynolds Farms Nursery in Norwalk sells cast stone, ceramic, and metal birdbaths, in addition to native trees and shrubs, such as Red Bud, Summersweet, Beautyberry, American Cranberry, Lowbush Blueberry, and Mountain Laurel. “Some evergreen shrubs, such as Inkberry, provide both a food source and shelter,” says Sue Kelley, manager, who suggests adding perennials to your landscape to provide nectar for hummingbirds. “Red flowers such as Bee Balm and Cardinal Flower are among their favorites,” she notes.
In the afternoon, McNamara watches the hummingbirds fly from bloom to bloom. “Hummingbirds are beautiful and they’re fascinating because of their small size and how they hover to feed on the bloom,” he concludes. “Watching hummingbirds fly around our deck is one of the joys of summertime!”