Birdbrained ideas bring wildlife into your backyard habitat

Patti Murphy

Instead of displaying boldfaced “Keep Out” signs, we carefully erect white picket fences, treat our lawns with chemicals and cover every square inch of land with development to ensure that certain visitors keep their distance. 

The wildlife in the area tends to get the idea and most, save the ubiquitous rabbit and occasional raccoon, keep to the forest preserves or the still wooded acreage in outlying suburbs. 

But there is much to be enjoyed about undomesticated creatures, particularly those of the winged variety.

Illinois is home to showy characters like the northern cardinal and sunny American goldfinch as well as the gravely attired mourning dove. All flit around suburban back yards, but they don’t always stay for long.

Robin Cronin, a sales associate with Wild Birds Unlimited, 1601 Ogden Ave., Lisle, knows a few surefire ways to lure birds to back yards and keep them in one place long enough for suburbanites to hear a sweet melody or two.

The Water Wiggler

A dome-shaped apparatus on four short, metal legs, the Water Wiggler employs a metal whisk to gently ripple the water in a birdbath. The device was created to keep mosquitos, which seek stagnant pools, from laying eggs in the water and to attract birds that are better at spotting moving water than still.

“It’s very easy to put together. Robins especially love it, ” said Sue Seago of Naperville as she motioned to the mechanism wiggling away in a blue birdbath at the far end of her sun-drenched back yard.

Seago is happy with the device especially when she considers the alternative.

“You can buy a fountain that trickles for the same effect but you’d either have to get a cord all the way outside or have one that’s solar powered and costs a couple hundred dollars,” she said. “This is a much more economical way to create moving water.”

The device takes two D-cell batteries for two months of continuous use, according to maker Allied Precision.

Baths in general appeal to birds because they prefer shallow water from which to drink and bathe.

“Birds need to keep their feathers clean because if the feathers are dirty, they can’t fly as efficiently,” Cronin explained.

Wild Birds Unlimited sells the product for $26.99.

The Eliminator

“This is an excellent squirrel proof feeder,” said Cronin of the hot seller. “It’s spring loaded and operates on the weight of the animal.”

The tube feeder, made of metal and Plexiglass, stops even the most determined critter because as soon as it sets a paw down, the doors snap shut. The spring’s tension can even be increased so that it is sensitive to species some may see as unwelcome backyard intruders like blackbirds.

The seed inside the feeder is also crucial in preventing birds from flying off to see if the neighbors haven’t got anything better.

“All native varieties like black oil sunflower seeds,” Cronin said. “Most of the seed you find in a grocery store is mixed with millet, which mostly sparrows and doves will eat; milo, which no Midwestern bird eats; and cracked corn, which ducks and geese like, but it’s not high in fat or protein like sunflower seed is. Plus corn is going to attract rodents.”

If a feeder is filled with quality seed, homeowners will see far less of it scattered uneaten on the ground, she added.

The Brome Bird Care feeder, complete with “squirrel busting technology,” is $79.99 and comes with the store’s lifetime warrantee.

Wren House

Wrens and chickadees will be enticed to set up a nest in your yard when they see a wren house.

“This house has just the right sized holes for those kinds of birds,” Cronin said.

The piece, which features two doors, is crafted of pine and cedar and may be painted on the outside. It is also easy to clean with a good-sized brush.

“Wrens will have two or three birds in a season, though maybe not in the same house,” she said. “Then come wintertime, chickadees can roost in there.”