It's easier than you think to roll out the welcome mat for a flock of feathered friends this summer. In fact, you only need three simple things to turn your backyard into a delightful bird hotel: food, shelter and water.
"It's no different than a person really," says Jennifer Sypeck, director of product trends for Novato, Calif.-based outdoor living and garden retailer Smith & Hawken. "If you give me a shower, a bed and a meal, I'm pretty happy." Try these quick-and-easy ideas to attract birds and deter mosquitoes while maintaining a beautiful yard:
1. Serve a bird buffet
"Food is the No. 1 draw," says Sally Roth, author of "Backyard Bird Secrets for Every Season" (Rodale Books, 2009). To start, she recommends buying a simple tube feeder and filling it will nyjer seed to attract a variety of finches. Then add a bright hummingbird feeder, which Roth says works like magic.
2. Create a dream birdhouse
"You want to make sure it has the right size hole for the bird you want to attract," Sypeck says. And choose a house without a perch, which predators can use to their advantage. Roth also says that you shouldn't put up a birdhouse if you have free roaming cats.
3. Offer them a drink
A birdbath lets your feathered friends quench their thirst and clean themselves. Choose one without sharp edges, and keep it within five feet of a tree to give birds an easy escape from predators, suggests Kelsey Elliott, associate buyer Smith & Hawken. But don't fill it with more than three inches of water - a lot of birds don't swim!
4. Outsmart mosquitoes
Nothing ruins backyard fun faster than mosquitoes, but items like Smith & Hawken's Water Wiggler give you the upper hand. This small, battery-powered dome sits in the middle of any birdbath and vibrates. The motion keeps water from getting stale and stops mosquitoes from laying eggs.
5. Keep the party going
"If you want birds to stay in your yard, and not just eat and run, you need plants," Roth says. She recommends that you plant a hedge or flowering shrubs to give birds a place to hang out after having a snack.
And the No. 1 plant for attracting hummingbirds? Red bee balm.
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