KC Gardens

Dennis has some tips for keeping your backyard birds happy

Gold finch at bird bath
Gold finch at bird bath

From Dennis Patton:

Like many of you, I enjoy feeding the birds. Now I will admit up front I am not a passionate, diehard bird enthusiast. But I do enjoy watching them feed and play in the yard. I don’t have to rush to the window to name every bird, or have the binoculars at hand. I just enjoy the very simple pleasure of providing their basic needs to help them find a home in this increasingly man-made jungle.

This winter I have noticed that my feeders are not being visited as often. There just seems to be less birds darting and consuming. I have also had several other people express this concern. I am sure some of you are better versed on answering this puzzlement. But in my mind I think we are seeing fewer birds at backyard feeders because of the more pleasant summer. The summer rains brought with it more plant growth and seed production. The lack of snowfall has also helped make these native seeds easily available. I am sure the issue is more complex.

If you are like me and enjoy just the simple pleasure of bird feeding here are a few things to remember. Birds are just like us and they need the basics: food, water and shelter.


Birds all have their favorite food to eat. They have preferences, just like us. For me, I will take Mexican over about any other flavors. But that does not mean I will not eat Italian or a hamburger. For the hardcore birder, you will search out the different seeds and provide a buffet in the yard. This might include sunflower, Niger, peanuts and many others. For me, a simpleton, I just feed sunflower chips. It is easy, there are no messy hulls and it is consumed by a wide range of birds. This simple meal plan could be one of the reasons I am seeing less birds. But last year I had a yard full while providing the same menu.


Just as we need water, so do the birds. Winter can be hard on them. In cold weather access is limited. Thanks to a dear friend I received a heated bird bath for Christmas. Now my birds have a source of water even on the coldest days. It has helped, as I have seen many of the birds that do visit my yard fly over to the water source and drink. Not everyone will spring for a heated source of water. But I think you will agree the more you enjoy or the longer you feed the birds the more likely you are to add the water source.


We have our homes to keep us warm at night or protect us from a storm. Birds also like to have shelter to feel safe in your yard. Shelter is normally found in the plant materials around the home. Trees, shrubs, vines all serve this purpose. Evergreens are best because the birds can hide in the foliage. The shelter should be located near the feeders. If the birds feel a threat in the area while dining they need an escape plan. They need to get to the shelter quickly for protection. If your yard does not have shelter for the birds then you might consider adding it to the landscape this spring.

Okay, enough time sitting at the home computer. It is now time for one of my many chores — filling the bird feeders and adding fresh water to the bird bath.