Backyard Birdfeeding in Tofino
by George Bradd, Tofino
Many Tofino residents and visitors have recently noticed the sudden arrival of so many brightly coloured migrating birds. These birds were swept in on a migrant wave from far south, and they arrive hungry and tired from a long flight.
In the center of Tofino one apartment complex was besieged by Golden Crowned Sparrows. Hundreds fed on the surrounding lawn area, and some even entered open patio doors to forage on indoor carpet habitats.
Feeding birds is an activity that many people enjoy. Instead of leaving home, you can study birds in your own backyard. Watching birds feed is relaxing; you learn about animal behavior and help birds out at the same time. These little brightly coloured birds have in some cases just arrived from as far as South America and they badly need food, shelter and water.
Some migrating birds travel in mixed species flocks, and while not all species will eat at feeders, they will accompany the other visitors that are eating, and add immensely to your backyard bird community.
Just as our Tofino mudflats offer shorebirds a needed opportunity to refuel before the next flight north, your backyard feeder does the same for the smaller birds.
Bird feeders come in many designs and shapes. There are tube feeders for finches, hanging bowls and box designs. There are a wide variety of seeds and suets to offer. Providing a water source for birds to drink or bathe also helps attract more birds to your yard.
Care should be taken in locating a bird feeder in your yard. Don't put it too close to windows, because small birds will scare sometimes and fly into nearby windows. Placement of fluttering ribbons or streamers in the window will also reduce bird loss. If you want to be able to clean up any uneaten seed or fallen food, locate the feeder over an open area.
Planting bird friendly gardens helps birds by providing flowers, seeds and fruits that birds will eat. A sequence of flowering bushes and plants can provide food from spring through fall, starting with blooms for hummingbirds and finishing with Mountain Ash berries in fall. A mixture of dense cover bushes and tall trees will provide cover and hiding places for small birds from hawks and predators. The National Wildlife Federation has backyard garden certification programs for bird and animal habitats at private homes.
Bird feeding will attract new birds to an area. This last winter 4 Anna's Hummingbirds stayed in Tofino until the end of January. They stayed alive by feeding on a planted fushia bush, and feeding at hummingbird feeders.
Anna's Hummingbird is a resident species and does not migrate to Mexico like our more common migratory Rufous Hummingbird. Perhaps in the future, Anna's Hummingbird will be staying year round in Tofino. In Victoria these hummingbirds now live year round because the presence of feeders has aided the northern range expansion of this species all the way from southern California.
Bird feeding can also attract unwanted guests to your feeder, including squirrels, rats or even bears in some cases. Because suet mixes are made from beef fat, bears often eat suet or birdseed, making bird feeding impossible in some areas.
New bird feeder designs have squirrel proof designs that have improved a lot over the past few years to prevent constant seed plundering by neighbour squirrels.
In most cases some kind of bird feeding can be done without attracting problem animals, but in some cases, it is better not to do it for the safety of both birds and people.
Birds need safety and sanctuary while feeding. If your backyard or neighbourhood has a lot of domestic cats, you should consider not feeding the birds. For those cat owners who hate indoor cat boxes: Keeping domestic cats indoors during daylight hours reduces bird casualties significantly.
Watching birds feed in your backyard can be a great way to start or end your day while at the same time helping them to survive their season in Tofino. In the past, rare vagrants have shown up at local feeders including a bird from Asia that was the first one ever seen in Canada. This year it could happen at your feeder!
George Bradd operates Just Birding, a Tofino company specialising in birdwatching tours. For more information, visit his website at www.justbirding.com