Backyard Birding Fun While at Home

— Written By Danny Lough and last updated by
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Spring has sprung in North Carolina! Increased temperatures, the emergence of spring flowers, the new growth on trees, and the buzzing of bees are just some of the indicators of spring. However, the return of many birds back to North Carolina is also a herald of spring. Now is a great time to get outside and look for birds. If you have a bird feeder at home, you may have seen several of our year-round resident birds at your feeders. Species such as Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, and Mourning Doves frequent bird feeders year-round. But now is the time for a bunch of other returning and passing migratory birds. Species such as Baltimore Orioles, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Gray Catbird may stop at feeders on their way to more northern breeding grounds. Other species such as Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Indigo Bunting, Northern Parula, and Black and White Warblers are migrants that are here to stay for the warmer months! But where to find these birds and attract them to your yard?

The best time to go backyard birding is early in the morning and towards sunset. Birds increase their activity at these times as that is when insect prey is most active. The cooler temperatures of a cloudy day are also excellent times to bird. To increase your success at spotting some feathered creatures, a bird feeder is a great way to attract more birds. By using spicy bird seed, it will decrease the attractiveness of the bird feeder to rodents like squirrels and rats. There are plenty of different commercial bird feeders but if you would like to make a fun bird feeder with your family, here are two great ideas:

Pinecone or paper towel:

  • Using a pinecone or paper towel, apply peanut butter or molasses on the cone or tube.
  • Once covered with peanut butter or molasses, roll the cone or tube over a plate of birdseed.
  • Once completely covered with birdseed, tie a string either at the end of the pine cone or through the center of the paper towel tube.
  • Species likely to visit are Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, Downy Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, and American Goldfinch.

Water bottle bird feeder:

  • Take an empty large water (12 oz. or greater) bottle and cut two quarter-sized holes across from each other about 20% down the bottle from the lid.
  • Next, cut two quarter-sized holes perpendicular to the ones you cut above and about 40% lower.
  • Afterward, slide two wooden spoons through the two sets of holes that were previously cut out. These will serve as perches for the birds.
  • Once all put together, fill with birdseed and tie a string around the lid to hang from a tree.
  • Species likely to visit are Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Chickadee, and American Goldfinch.

Bird feeders are not the only thing you can place to attract birds to your backyard! Birdbaths give a great place for birds to clean their feathers and find drinking water on hot summer days. Regularly clean birdbaths to prevent mosquito larvae, harmful bacteria, and other parasites that may harm the birds and your family members. Bare dirt is also attractive to birds as the fine dust helps them dust bathe to reduce parasitic mites. A small patch in a sunny yard location will bring plenty of birds and some entertaining behaviors. Planting native plants will also attract different species of birds that may not visit feeders like Brown Thrashers, Warblers, and American Robins. Native plants offer important nesting sites for birds and familiar foods. Here are some great natives that you can plant to attract more birds to your yard:

Red Maple (Acer rubrum) Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)
Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans) Hickory (Carya sp.)
Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) Tickseed (Coreopsis sp.)
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea)
American Strawberry Bush (Euonymus americanus) American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
American Holly (Ilex opaca) Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)
Pines (Pinus sp.) Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
Oaks (Quercus sp.) Blackberry (Rubus sp.)
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.)

Bird watching is a great way for families to come together and enjoy the outdoors right in their own backyards. It allows children an opportunity to see how nature is all connected and is a great introduction to land stewardship, even in suburban areas. By creating their own bird feeders and bird habitats, children will definitely learn about ecology and animal behavior through doing!

Carolina Chickadee feeding on a homemade bird feeder tied to a tree with red ribbons

Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) enjoying homemade bird feeder

American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) perched on a Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). 

American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) perched on a Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). Coneflowers are one of the many beautiful native plants that attract birds to yards.

A brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) dust bathing.

A brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) dust bathing. Small patches of exposed dirt are very important for birds. The fine dust helps remove extra oils on the feathers and helps reduce the presence of parasitic mites.