Bermuda has 5 native bird species that might visit your yard – the beautiful bluebird, shy mourning dove, bumbling ground dove, mischievous chick of the village, and regal catbird. It also has two striking naturalised species you might see – the cardinal and the goldfinch – in addition to a glut of very common introduced birds. If you want to attract birds to your yard, take a look at our tips!
Set Up a Birdbath and Fill it with Water
Ever get a writhing trail of ants in your home in the summer? The ants are more likely to be looking for water than food. It’s the same with birds – fresh water is a precious resource during dry Bermuda summers, and birds will flock to your yard if you provide them with a birdbath. However, you can’t just get a birdbath and leave it alone. Birds will enjoy it so much that the water will get dirty very quickly, at which point more birds will stop visiting it. You must tip it out periodically and replace the water with fresh water. About once a month, you’ll also have to scrub it with a brush to clean away bacteria. Keeping your birdbath well maintained will also ensure that it doesn’t turn into a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Hang a Birdfeeder
Some Bermudian birds, like bluebirds, exclusively eat insects, but others will be attracted to a bird feeder full of birdseed.
The best birdfeeder to buy if you haven’t got one already is a hopper style feeder. Usually in the shape of a little house, these feeders feature a little perch for the birds to hang out on while they feed.
One thing to be conscious of with a bird feeder in your yard is to ensure that you ward off rats. It is useful to clean up the ground around the feeder of spilled food, placing it in the trash rather than outside, as rats will quickly realise what’s going on.
Mow Your Lawn
Birds that forage on the ground for insects enjoy golf courses because the grass is cropped short enough to get their beaks into the ground. To attract birds to your yard, mow your lawn so that they can hunt for insects there.
Build a Bluebird Box or Longtail Igloo
Putting up a general species birdbox in Bermuda isn’t a great idea – we have many pest species, like sparrows, starlings, and kiskadees, that will feel right at home in them. Instead, we should be encouraging nesting for native birds.
Building your own bluebird box is a great way to support bluebird populations. You can buy kits from the Audubon Society and most garden centres, which you can put together at home and paint. In addition, the same stores also sell complete bluebird boxes. You can even make your own if you like working with wood – just make sure you have a drill bit that makes a hole the right size for a bluebird! This will ensure that other, larger species can’t get inside.
Bluebird boxes require some maintenance. You must ensure that the box is mounted away from cats and rats, and that ants or mites don’t infest it – sometimes, putting a ring of Vaseline around the pole the box is resting in can help.
After the birds nest and the chicks fledge, you must remove the old nest so that a new family can use the box next season. In addition, if you realise a sparrow is using the box, you must remove the nest to make way for a bluebird.
Longtail igloos can only be installed if your property has access to a coastal cliff where longtails like to nest. They take a bit more work to set up, using cement and natural rock covering to secure and blend the Styrofoam igloo into the rock. This will create another crevice for a longtail nesting pair to use.
Plant Native Trees
Many birds cannot be supported by ornamental gardens and birdboxes alone. Most conventionally landscaped lawns are not attractive homes for birds, because there aren’t a lot of places for them to hide or forage for food.
Planting cedars will provide birds with important nesting sites, and berries to eat. In fact, the fate of many native Bermuda species was linked to the cedar tree, including the Bermuda cicada, now extinct after the cedar blight, and the bluebird, which is making a comeback thanks to human intervention.
Other native trees that produce berries that birds like to eat include snowberry, palmetto, white stopper, southern hackberry, bay grape, yellow wood and olive wood.
Keep Cats Away
If you have cats, it is unwise to attract birds to your garden, especially with a birdbath or bird feeder. Cats will note this abundance of birds, and hunt the birds that visit your yard.
Feral cat populations are a big problem in Bermuda, and charities like BFAB, and now CATs, combated the problem with a feeding station, trap, spay/neuter, and release program. However, the Audubon Society does not support the feeding of feral animals, and would like to see mandatory licensing for all cats. Until this is implemented, the feral cat population may continue to rise.