6 Steps to Songbird Sanctuary

Get your songbird sanctuary underway with flowers and water.

from a brochure by the Wild Bird Feeding Industry

This information is designed to assist birding enthusiasts in their efforts to attract a variety of birds to their property, as well as to serve as a guide to providing a healthy environment.

The Wild Bird Feeding Industry & Duncraft – a long term supporting member – hope you find this information helpful in creating your own wild bird sanctuary, and wish you many years of happy viewing!

You can help change the world and make it a better place for birds. The most important step you can take is to get started! Following these six steps is a great start. Be sure to learn more about birds and how you can help by getting involved with the organizations listed at the end of this document, and with others committed to conserving bird and wildlife habitats.

Birds need your help! Populations of many kinds of birds are declining. Habitat loss and degradation, disease, collisions with man-made structures and a host of other factors contribute to these declines. You can help by turning your yard into a sanctuary for birds.

1. Put out the welcome mat! Habitat loss is the biggest challenge facing birds. You can help by making your neighborhood more attractive to birds by landscaping with native plants that provide natural food sources, shelter from the elements and predators, and nesting sites. Providing feeders, nest boxes and water also benefits birds.

2. Prepare a proper menu. Providing the appropriate foods year round will attract more birds to your yard and help ensure that they have a safe and nutritious diet. Refill feeders regularly with food desired by the birds in your area.

3. Keep feed and feeding areas clean. To help reduce the possibility of disease transmission in birds, clean feeders and feeding areas at least once a month. Plastic and metal feeders can go in the dishwasher, or rinse these and other styles with a 10% solution of bleach and warm water. Scrub birdbaths with a brush and replace water every three to five days to discourage mosquito reproduction. Rake up and dispose of seed hulls under feeders. Moving feeders periodically helps prevent the buildup of waste on the ground. Keep seed and foods dry; discard food that smells musty, is wet or looks moldy. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned every three to five days, or every other day in warm weather. It’s good hygiene to wash your hands before and after filling — or cleaning feeders.

4. Birds and chemicals don’t mix. Many pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are toxic to birds; avoid using these near areas where birds feed, bathe or rest. Always follow directions provided by chemical manufacturers. For additional information visit your lawn & garden retailer.

5. Keep cats away from birds. Scientists estimate that cats probably kill hundreds of millions of birds each year in the U.S. This is a big problem, but it’s easy to fix. Many people who enjoy feeding birds also love cats. The best solution is to keep cats indoors. They will lead longer, healthier lives, and your yard will be safer for birds. Install feeders in areas not readily accessible to cats or install fences or other barriers to help keep stray cats from feeder areas. Collar bells, de-clawing and keeping cats well fed will not solve the problem.

6. Reduce window collisions. Collisions with glass windows kill millions of wild birds every year. Depending on their size and location, some windows reflect the sky or vegetation, and birds are fooled into thinking they can fly through them. To eliminate this problem, identify windows that cause collisions (typically larger, reflective windows, those near the ground, or those that look through the house). Attaching decorative decals or other decorations to the outside surface of the glass can reduce reflections. Feeder birds fleeing predators are vulnerable to window collisions. If this is happening at your house, consider moving feeders within three feet of the windows so that birds cannot accelerate to injury level speeds while flying away. Problem windows can be covered with a screen so that birds bounce off, rather than hit the glass.

Drafted by the following participating organizations’ listed below. Representatives from Cleveland MetroParks, Aurora University, and Muhlenberg College, as well as the following organizations contributed to the development of this brochure.

American Birding Association

American Bird Conservancy

Bird Conservation Alliance

Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology

Massachusetts Audubon Society

National Audubon Society

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

National Wildlife Federation

The Wildlife Society

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Wild Bird Feeding Industry

The Wild Bird Feeding Industry and it’s member companies (WBFI) sponsored development of this information. WBFI is an association dedicated to the progressive expansion of the wild bird feeding industry.

The Wild Bird Feeding Industry & Duncraft – a long term supporting member – hope you find this information helpful in creating your own wild bird sanctuary, and wish you many years of happy viewing!

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  • Elizabeth November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    After reading this, I see that I’ve been following your advice. By the patio where I hang my birdfeeders, I have about a dozen planters hanging on the eaves of my house. I also have a planter hung in front of most of my windows. This has solved several problems. The planters are a cat-safe place for birds to explore, on their way to and from the feeders. Birds no longer crash into the windows – they stop at the planters. Also, my cat is easier to keep indoors, now that he can sit inside on a window ledge and watch “kitty TV.”

  • Karen Muszynski January 20, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    I am looking for more detailed information about preventing birds from flying into windows. I have read your info about attaching decals to the outside of windows, but there is nothing about attaching items to the inside of windows.I have a window that is not accessible from the outside, but would placing a sun catcher on a suction cup on the inside of the window help? Any further information would be appreciated. Thank you. Karen Muszynski(Michigan)

  • R. Brune--Duncraft January 21, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Hi Karen,

    Our article on Preventing Window Strikes might help:
    Usually things on the inside of a window are not seen well by the birds and don’t break up reflections. If you could get a screen put on the outside of that window, that would help a lot. It wouldn’t hurt to try the suncatcher, or even decals on the inside of the window. They aren’t as effective that way, but it might work.