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How to attract birds to your garden

Choosing the right seed and creating an inviting habitat that will attract flocks of birds to the backyard.

A hummingbird sips syrup from a red bird feeder. You can draw the tiny birds to your yard by tying red ribbon to trees or poles and by providing them with nesting material such as natural, oil-rich cotton.

The Associated Press

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Backyard bird watching is a fairly simple exercise. Provide enough food, water, and cover, and birds will come flocking. Playing favorites, though, calls for using the right kinds of incentives.

Hummingbirds, for example, will linger longer if you offer nesting material to help cushion their pea-size eggs. "Goldfinches and titmice go for it, too. Lots of birds," says Mel Toellner, whose company, Songbird Essentials in Mexico, Mo., makes a fluff-stuffed enclosure called the "Hummer Helper." Instead of hunting for filler – primarily spider webs or moss – hummingbirds can pick up what they need from this fiber-filled device.

"It's the nesting equivalent of stopping at a McDonalds," Mr. Toellner says. "Hummingbirds will return to the same place year after year when they find a situation they like. These units help build high-density populations."

Hummingbirds fledge as many as three broods per season, so Toellner suggests placing nest-building kits near feeders. The containers are priced at around $12; refills of the natural, oil-rich cotton cost about $6.

Another way to attract hummingbirds is to signal that food is available.

"Hummingbirds react favorably to the color red, so wrap some bright red ribbons around trees or poles where scouts can see them" during the spring migration, Toellner says. "The birds will come down to investigate."

Hummingbirds survive chiefly on a liquid diet, preferably high-energy syrup from flowers or feeders. Nectars can be color free, but the foraging is made easier if feeders are red.

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