Birdwatching makes for

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 28, 1999

a great fall pasttime

By Michelle Wilson

Staff Writer

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Besides being one of my favorite pastimes in the fall and winter months, birdwatching has been rated one of the nation’s fastest-growing recreational activities, according to the Alabama Ornith-ological Society. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates more than 65 million Americans feed birds, and they spend about $2 billion on feed each year.

Feeders can be found on apartment balconies as well as in back yards. Bird-watching or "birding" is a hobby that is easily practiced by people of all ages.

With rapidly diminshing natural habitats, the backyard birder has an opportunity to make an important contribution to birdlife by creating a supportive environment.

If there is appropriate cover, an ample water source and a plentiful food supply, birds will flock to your garden or back door.

Not every yard will entice every bird species but with a little effort, you can attract an amazing variety of birds. Different habitats appeal to different birds. Eastern Bluebirds want open fly space with cover at the perimeter. Catbirds and thrashers like piles of leaves and brush. Woodpeckers and nuthatches need dead limbs for nest holes.

After you decide to invite birds into your yard, the first step is to put out a feeder.

Of course, food selection is improtant, but birds want refuge near a feeder. Most birds like to approach a feeder by first landing in the safety of a nearby shrub or tree, which offers protection from unseen enemies.

Water is another critical element for encouraging birds to drop by your backyard. They require water for drinking and bathing.

A water source that fulfills the birds’ needs, such as a bird bath, can be an attractive addition to the backyard landscape.

Gardens or yards can be large or small, formal or naturalized, open or wooded, and still provide a favorable habitiat for birds. Since there are hundreds of shrubs and tres that benefit birds, a succesful habitat can be blended into almost any landscape design.

Birds in the backyard are a visual delight. If your garden is inviting to birds, it will also entice butterflies.

Includiung wildlife in your landscape plans will give you the pleasure of their company and the gratification of knowing you have contributed to preserving their habitat.

Michelle Wilson is a staff writer for The Messenger.