The Apartment Birder

For those birdwatchers lucky enough to have a spacious yard with plenty of room for bird baths, bird feeders, and birdhouses, the view from most apartment windows might seem pretty bleak. Bird lovers in big cities might not see the same diversity as their colleagues further afield, but there are still many urban birds to be seen other than pigeons and fried chicken. Finches, swallows, waxwings, and orioles are among the many birds who commonly inhabit urban areas, and with a little luck, several species can be lured to your windowsill.
For bird lovers who live in apartments, “backyard birdwatching” poses some special challenges. Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have a patio or balcony, or maybe windows are all you’ve got. Whatever your situation might be, maintaining a birdfeeder is a great way to get to know your feathered neighbors. A patio or balcony can accommodate most feeders and smaller birdbaths. Small bird feeders and hummingbird feeders are also available which attach to a window using suction cups, offering up close viewing.
To successfully attract birds to your apartment, it’s important to be aware that different species prefer different foods and require specific types of feeders. Especially since you may not have room for multiple feeders, it’s a good idea to start by visiting local parks and other green spaces and learning which species frequent your area, particularly the sparrows, finches, cardinals, and hummingbirds that commonly visit feeders. This reconnaissance helps determine which feeders will be appropriate for your neighborhood, and helps to ensure that your new feeder has visitors. Having a better idea of which birds you’re trying to attract will also help you choose a seed blend. Try starting out with a basic blend that has a high percentage of black-oil sunflower seeds. Once birds have started visiting, you can tailor the seed to suit their tastes.
Often, the type of feeder you put up – or whether you can have one at all – depends on your landlord. Sometimes the management simply doesn’t allow them, or objects to the mess created by the debris and droppings. Start by looking for bird feeder guidelines in your lease or homeowner’s association paperwork. Often, though, no official rules on feeders have been enacted for your building, and you’ll have to proceed reasonably and with a bit of sensitivity towards your neighbors. Try choosing a shell-free bird seed blend to minimize the mess the feeder creates. Also, pick a feeder which can be mounted without damaging the property by using clamps or suction cups rather than nails and screws. If you have access to a balcony or patio, you can hang feeders from a lightweight pole sunk in a bucket of sand or cement.
Even if bird feeders aren’t allowed, all is not lost. Ask whether hummingbird feeders would be permitted – after all, those are virtually mess-free. Also try putting out nesting material in the spring, in a suet feeder or a mesh bag. With or without feeders, if you have a green thumb you can transform your balcony or patio into bird habitat by putting out shrubs that provide good cover, or hummingbird-attracting flowers such as fuchsia.

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One Response to “The Apartment Birder”

  1. Becci Says:

    As an apartment-dweller, I really liked this post–except for the part about needing to see birds other than “pigeons and fried chicken”. Obviously we want to see as many different birds as possible, but there’s no reason to malign pigeons. They are fascinating and intelligent birds regardless of how common they are.

    For example: http://blog.liberationbc.org/2009/06/what-do-pigeons-have-in-common-with-yaks-and-snow-leopards/

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