Attract more birds and wildlife to your backyard habitat

For serious backyard bird and wildlife watchers, an understanding of animal behavior is essential

A backyard habitat requires basic tools like feeders, a water feature, native wildflowers, nest boxes and a carefully selected menu to attract a wide variety of species.

Once you’ve “set the table” and have a steady stream of visitors to your backyard, a little bit of knowledge about animal behavior will enhance your enjoyment, bring birds and animals closer to you, and encourage them to linger for photos or close observation

 (Kathy Vespaziani)


Protect the wildlife you’re trying to attract

Keep dogs/cats and other predators  indoors when you’re outside (or always) to avoid a situation where you are, quite literally, leading wildlife to slaughter

Establish a “safe zone” in their habitat that you never enter. My backyard is essentially a bottom land where a small marsh/pond provides a diverse habitat for birds and wildlife. Even though I could easily enter the water or walk the muddy shore, I’ve made a decision to leave a large area of the habitat as a sort of “comfort zone”

Work on your forest “edge” habitat

Forest edges are where you’ll find a myriad of bird and wildlife species. A well-designed area that provides cover, a choice of perches of different heights/levels/types and a source of water will be a familiar-looking habitat for native species, and will help to consolidate the bird and wildlife activity into an area that you can photograph more easily.

If  you have a small yard, or find it difficult to get outside, think creatively about your surroundings, and use your house or any other permanent structures as a “bllind”

You’ll find out that birds seem to be more tolerant of a camera lens poking out of a home than a  human face,  which shares many features with that of a predator

  (2010 K.Vespaziani)


Make consistency a part of your strategy

When I was a kid, I thought that wildlife would naturally want to come closer to me, simply because I wanted to be closer to them. At the age of 9, my understanding of “patience” consisted of “pausing” and expecting something to happen. I’m still not a big fan of sitting still, so any tactic that can speed “patience” along is a tactic I’ll use, such as:

Become a Creature of Habit

Over time, you’ll begin to notice that there are general patterns that are followed by certain species and/or individuals throughout the day. This will not only allow you to observe and study wildlife, it will also help to improve the quality of your photographs.

Knowing that you have a good chance of catching birds bathing in the early morning, you’ll be better prepared to make an effective exposure that will showcase that  behavior in a dynamic and effective  way.

Appeal to their senses

Your clothing represents the largest area visible on your body, so treat it like an important tool in your strategy. Put some thought into the colors, shape and even fit of your “backyard suit” and make a real effort to wear similarclothing when engaged in activities outdoors.Even if you don’t see any birds or other critters, it doesn’t mean that they can’t see you.

Animals in the wild are constantly assessing the threat level of a particular object or animal. Because it would be exhausting and counter productive to react with the fight/flight response to every animal in every situation, habituation allows the bird to get comfortable with what’s familiar.

  (Kathy Vespaziani/k.vespaziani |

Hello, it’s me

Birds do more than sing; they have a myriad of nuanced calls and noises that are used in very specific situations. You can use your voice to establish a consistent and recognizable “hello” or greeting call.

Each time I exit my home and step onto my backyard deck, I issue a simple two-note greeting (sort of a combo of e.phoebe and b.c. chickadee)to announce that its “just me” Over the past year, that simple greeting has become increasingly effective in getting the attention of the birds, squirrels and chipmunks that call my backyard home. As of this summer, the denizens will essentially, “come when called.”

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