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December 2, 1998
          
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March 29, 1999
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"How to Attract Birds to Your back Yard"
Lessons from an Expert

On May 1, 2004, an enthusiastic group of residents of Fairlington attended a special weekend session on "How to attract birds to your back yard" presented by Charles Studholme, owner of One Good Tern, a local bird store located along Fern Street in Alexandria. This event was sponsored and organized by the Building and Grounds Committee of the Meadows Condominium Association and was held at the South Fairlington Community Center.


Charles Studholme, Owner of One Good Tern in Alexandria, Displays a Variety of Bird Feeders During His Presentation
(Photo by Ron Patterson)

Mr. Studholme brought along a sampling of different bird feeders and other items to help him explain and demonstrate what works best in the Fairlington environment, without attracting unwanted pests.

In addition, he pointed out which types of plants attract specific species of birds.

Among the more significant points made during the presentation was the fact that many residents assume that adding a bird feeder is all you need to do. Not so, according to Mr. Studholme.

Other than the most obvious fact that you must keep a feeder clean, there are a number of steps you can take to attract birds, keep them happy, and keep your property attractive and free of unwanted pests.

For example, Mr. Studholme noted the following:

  • Add a birdbath
  • Use native plants in your garden/patio - not exotics
  • Provide cover for the birds with shrubs and trees
  • Keep the bird feeding area clean - you don’t want uneaten bird food all over the ground (attracts rats, etc.)

Regarding the type of bird food to use, residents are asked to consider the following:

  • Sunflower seeds are the best to attract birds (seeds should be fresh, since all seeds are subject to infestation over time)
  • Since sunflower seeds leave debris, consider purchasing shelled seeds
  • Consider special mixes of bird feed - designed to reduce debris and attract a wide range of birds
  • Specialized feeds can attract specific types of birds - e.g., thistle attracts goldfinches and suet baskets attract "clinging birds"

Mr. Studholme was careful to point out that “how food is presented is more important that the type of food you provide.” For example, cardinals don’t like small perches. Depending on the type of birds native to the area and the birds you are interested in attracting, you will need to select your feeder carefully.

One Good Tern has a large variety of feeders, each designed with specific features to meet specific conditions. You will need to ask about each feeder’s advantages and disadvantages before your make your choice.


Fairlington Residents (Left to Right) Nancy Donley, Diane Thurber, Chuck Edwards, and Lisa Farbstein Query Charles Studholme on Feeder Selections
(Photo by Ron Patterson)

Mosquito control was considered critical in any decision by residents to place a birdbath in their gardens or patios. With the West Nile Virus as prevalent as it is in this area, Mr. Studholme offered a number of suggestions to control mosquitoes. These include:

  • Keep the water in the birdbath clean and fresh
  • Consider using a mosquito control product such as “Mosquito Dunks” which are pellet-like products which kill mosquitoes before they are old enough to bite and last for 30 days or more. These “dunks” are to be placed in any containerized standing water (e.g., birdbaths, flower pots with hold standing water, roof gutters, etc.). (Webmaster’s Note: I have used these dunks for the past 3 years and found them to be 100% effective.)
  • Another defense is a product called a “Water Wiggler” - a battery-driven device that keeps the water moving in a birdbath. The batteries last around 3 months.

The speaker also addressed one of the most popular myths surrounding the use of bird feeders and bird feeding activities. “Birds do not become dependent on feeders and have no impact on the bird population one way or the other,” Mr. Studholme stated emphatically.

Mr. Studholme also provided additional information in a handout on "Managing a backyard for Wildlife." Click Here to View the Document (PDF Format).

One Good Tern is an independently owned business that has been in operation since 1986. They specialize in bird feeders, bird houses, birding books, nature-related gifts, CDs of bird calls, and birding supplies such as binoculars. Their web site is http://www.onegoodtern.com.