4 tips for attracting birds to your garden and why it’s important


“Birds are an important part of the ecosystem that sustains us,” says Amir Balaban, Urban Nature director of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI).

“As they move, they pollinate plants, disperse seeds and control invertebrates,” he says. “They are beautiful to look at and beautiful to listen to, so they are also important for our mental health.”

Balaban, a famous wildlife artist/photographer, helped found two urban wildlife sites in Jerusalem: Jerusalem Nili & David Bird Observatory and Gazelle Valley Park.

Urban Nature Director Amir Balaban of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. Photo by Yael Hamerman/SPNI

No matter where you live – a farm, a suburban home, a skyscraper or anywhere else – you can lessen humanity’s impact on the environment by choosing a place to nurture nature, says- he.

A windowsill, balcony, roof, yard or garden maintained by your community, school or workplace will do. All it needs is a water source and a patchwork of biodiverse plants native to the place.

This tiny kingfisher feels at home in Gazelle Valley Park, Jerusalem. Photo by Amir Balaban

Birds can be your barometer to measure the success of your endeavors.

“The type and number of birds we have indicate whether our habitat is balanced and in good condition,” Balaban told ISRAEL21c.

A female sparrowhawk in Nyman Pond at the Nili & David Bird Observatory in Jerusalem. Photo by Amir Balaban

Observe the birds in your habitat

If you live in North America and most of the birds in your designated natural area are house sparrows, starlings and pigeons, your habitat is missing the mark, says Balaban. The appearance of birds like cardinals, dark-eyed juncos, and ruby-throated hummingbirds indicates that you are on the right track.

A greenfinch in a wild urban habitat. Photo by Amir Balaban

In England, ring-necked parakeets and feral pigeons indicate poor habitat, while birds such as robins, mute accents, hedge sparrows and goldfinches show you have a good thing going.

Goldfinches on an almond tree. Photo by Amir Balaban

In Israel, Hooded Crows and Mourning Doves are not the ideal bird species you want in your habitat. You’ll know you’ve struck the right balance when you see specialist local species, such as Sardinian warblers and yellow-bellied bulbuls.

“Nature speaks to us with signs. And one of the best visible signs are the birds,” says Balaban.

4 ways to welcome and protect local birds

The “carrying capacity” (average population) of local birds in your designated natural area depends on their ability to find adequate food, shelter, water and mates.

Here are some tips from Balaban to achieve this.

  1. Install “biological furniture” for the comfort of the birds

A pond, a pile of sticks, an insect hotel or a set of birdhouses are examples of organic furniture that will make the birds feel welcome in your garden.

Bird feeders, says Balaban, “are a kind of last resort intervention. When in use, they should be well maintained, clean and safe from predators.

  1. Share edible plants

Choose native varieties of fruit trees and shrubs for your space based on what you like to eat. But be sure to share the bounty with the birds by leaving some fruit unpicked. Unless you’re running a commercial farm, you’ll have plenty for you and your feathered friends.

  1. Protect existing bird habitats

In addition to developing your own natural habitat, find a birding site near your home or workplace and participate in community activities.

“There are many sites around the world where people do this, in small wetlands, woods or grasslands,” says Balaban. “If the site is under threat, your community can make a big difference by working to protect these habitats.”

This aquatic bird is called a little grebe. Photo by Amir Balaban

  1. Join local wildlife conservation organizations

Greater organized efforts make a positive difference for the birds, says Balaban.

In the United States, you can join the Audubon Society; in England, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB); and in Israel, SPNI.

But you don’t have to live in Israel to help protect its birds. “People can sponsor specific bird conservation projects,” says Balaban.

These conservation projects take place at sites such as the Jerusalem Bird Observatory, the International Bird Watching and Research Center in Eilat, the Jordan Valley Bird Watching Center in Kfar Ruppin, the Ramat HaNegev Birdwatching Center in Midreshet Ben-Gurion and Kibbutz Ma’agen Michael near Haifa.

Click here for more information on Israeli Bird Centers.


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