Backyard refuge: Attract birds to your home

A female cardinal enjoys some seed on an open platform.

A tufted titmouse enjoys its seeds on the perch of a hanging feeder at Prairie Park Nature Center. Birds can be finicky about seeds, so be sure to read labels carefully. Birds will reject milo and wheat.

A woodpecker hangs on to a suet feeder at Prairie Park Nature Center, 2730 SW Harper St.

Looking to attract more birds to your yard? Here are some suggestions from the Iowa State University Extension Office for being a better host to the winged friends in your backyard.rWater: Birdbaths and water gardens are superb, but even a shallow dish filled with fresh, clean water will have birds singing a song. Keep their water source in an area that is protected from predators and preferably off the ground. Moving water like in a bubbler of a water garden is excellent because the water does not freeze; water heaters are also available for bird baths.

• Safety: Birds frequently will see their own reflection in a window and attack, or they will misconstrue a landscape in a window as the real thing. These collisions can cause blood clots and brain damage to birds.

However, a bird enthusiast can take a few precautions to aid in keeping birds safe. Place feeders or houses close, about 1 foot away, from windows. That way any accident will be at a reduced acceleration and less likely for serious bodily harm. Or place them at a distance from windows but still visible to the naked eye. Keep feeders and houses at least 5 feet off the ground and with the entrance hole facing away from the prevailing winds.

• Shelter: Shelter can be purchased from stores, with bird houses for anything from finches to owls, or if you have a brush pile or old trees, they also adore nesting there.

• Food: This is an easy enough commodity to supply and can take many forms, from the plants you sow to buying a bag of seed at the store. However, if you are looking to attract specific birds, keep reading.

Providing suet will attract insect-eating birds like nuthatches and woodpeckers. When it comes to purchasing food, birds are actually quite finicky, so be sure to read the labels. For instance, many commercial brands of bird feed will have milo and wheat, two seeds not preferred by any birds!

A good mix is 50 percent black-oiled sunflower seeds, 35 percent white proso millet and 15 percent cracked corn. The sunflower seeds are a favorite with many birds, and the proso millet is a hit with morning doves, juncos and most sparrows. Cracked corn is an essential filler.

Want to attract a variety of finches? Feed them niger thistle in a tubular feeder. Northern orioles prefer orange slices. Apples, oranges and raisins will be a welcome sight for bluebirds, mockingbirds, woodpeckers, jays, grosbeaks, waxwings and robins.