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Get yard ready to welcome bird visitors

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Late spring and early summer is a busy time for birds.

Wild Birds Unlimited store owner Mary Schmauss holds a feeder containing a cylinder of tightly compacted seeds and nuts that is useful to put out if you are going to be away. It will last a long time and the seeds and nuts won’t make a mess on the ground, Schmauss says. (Rosalie Rayburn/Albuquerque Journal)

A whole variety of feathered visitors show up around this time of year, ready to nest and make babies – and they’re hungry.

Hummingbirds, orioles, Western tanagers, black headed grosbeaks and western king birds are just some of the birds that appear, according to local bird expert Mary Schmauss, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Albuquerque.

Recently, she shared a few tips on what birds need and how to attract them.

“Feeding birds is a nice hobby, you don’t have to buy a lot of equipment and you don’t have to travel,” said Schmauss.

• Nectar feeders. Whether you’re in an apartment, have a big yard or live in the country, hanging a nectar feeder will attract hummingbirds. Make nectar by mixing four parts water to one part white table sugar. Honey and other types of sugar are not suitable. Mix well. Do not add coloring, Schmauss advises.

The two types of oriole that visit Albuquerque, Scott’s and Bullock’s orioles, also enjoy nectar, though they are harder to attract. Nectar feeders that can accommodate larger beaks are available.

Change the nectar mixture at least twice weekly to keep it fresh, Schmauss said.

• Birds need calcium for their bones and egg shells. Look for feed blends that are calcium rich and high in fat. Suet, available in cakes that won’t melt, are a good source of fat and calories to give birds energy to raise their young.

• Water. Birds are attracted to water to drink and to bathe. Remember that birds can’t swim, so make sure the bird bath is shallow. You can purchase devices that will cause the water to ripple and generate a soft flowing sound.

“If you add water to your yard you will double the amount of birds that come. Moving water is even more of a magnet,” Schmauss said.

• Nesting material. Birds will be looking for material to make nests. So, even if you don’t put out feed, you can buy a ball of cleaned cotton and hang it up. Schmauss said the birds will grab tiny wisps to incorporate in their nests.

Schmauss recommends putting out feed year round. Even though there is more natural food available in the summer months, urban sprawl and natural disasters like fires can disrupt food supplies for birds.

“Feeding birds helps them survive,” she said.