(ARA) - A huge percentage of Americans have pets. Whether we live with dogs, cats, fish or any other animal friends, we love the companionship they offer. On the other hand, we consider anything outside our home to be "wildlife." While that word is accurate, it can also be misleading.
As wildlife -- in particular birds -- learn to live with the ever-sprawling human population, we have a unique opportunity. It is our chance to "adopt" these wonderful outdoor pets. Here are some simple but important things you can do to make your yard into a sanctuary for outdoor pets (with special thanks to "6 Steps To Turn Your Yard Into A Sanctuary For Birds," a philosophy created and endorsed by the Wild Bird Feeding Industry.
Make your yard welcoming to outdoor pets
The more humans there are in the world, the less natural habitat remains for birds and wildlife. This can have unpredictable and often adverse effects on their ability to adapt and even survive. What can you do? You can make your back yard more attractive to birds and other outdoor pets by landscaping with native plants that provide natural food sources, shelter from the elements and predators, and nesting sites.
Set up feeders and keep them well stocked. Put up nesting boxes for birds. Make sure that there is fresh water for birds and animals to drink. Have fun and use landscaping that fits your style and personality. As long as your top priority is attracting and nourishing outdoor pets, your work will not go unnoticed. In other words, "if you build it, they will come."
Make an inviting (and healthy) menu
If you feed your dog treats all day, every day, he will be unhealthy and even, eventually, unhappy. In the same respect, if you feed him dog food that lacks the nutrients he needs to be healthy, he won't thrive. The same idea applies to your outdoor pets. Providing a safe and nutritious diet to birds and wildlife is critical to the long-term success of your backyard sanctuary. A great place to start is by choosing a premium blend of wild bird or outdoor pet food.
These foods are specially cleaned, formulated to be attractive and healthy, and packaged to stay fresh. Refill feeders regularly with blends that are desired by wild birds and backyard pets in your area. By choosing a premium outdoor pet food, you can feel good knowing that you are providing the wholesome nutrition that birds and backyard wildlife need to stay healthy and vibrant. Stop in to your local wild bird shop to learn more.
In addition, it is important to provide a healthy diet to outdoor pets year-round, not just in the summer months. While many species of birds migrate, many do not. If you provide good food, you can enjoy visitors all year long.
Keep feeders full, clean and sanitary
Statistics show that almost 80 percent of America's feeders are empty at any one time. The more consistent you are about feeding your outdoor pets, the more birds you'll have to watch and enjoy. Plus, it's wise to clean your feeders regularly. Just like people, birds can transmit disease to one another by eating from a dirty feeder.
Clean-up doesn't have to be a chore. Plastic and metal feeders can go in the dishwasher, or rinse these and other styles with a 10 percent solution of bleach and warm water. While you're at it, scrub birdbaths with a brush and replace water every three to five days to discourage mosquito reproduction.
It's also a good idea to rake up and dispose of seed hulls under feeders. In fact, moving feeders now and then helps to prevent the buildup of waste on any one part of your yard. When it comes to storing food, keep seed and other foods dry and discard any that smells musty, is wet or looks moldy. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned every three to five days, or every other day in warm weather. Finally, it's always good hygiene to wash your hands after filling or cleaning feeders. Put "feeder maintenance" on your schedule. You'll be glad you did.
Go easy on the chemicals
Take special care when you use pesticides, herbicides and fungicides in your yard. Many of these can be toxic to birds and other outdoor pets, and the last thing you want to do is harm the visitors you've worked so hard to invite.
The golden rule: Keep chemicals away from where birds and outdoor pets feed, bathe or rest. In addition, always be sure to follow the directions provided by the chemical manufacturer closely. It's always better to be safe than sorry.
Keep cats inside
Sorry, cat lovers, but while your feline friends are great indoor pets, they can be harmful to birds and backyard wildlife. In fact, scientists estimate that cats probably kill hundreds of millions of birds every year in the United States. The solution is simple: Keep cats away from your outdoor pets. Most of the time, this means keeping them indoors. Unfortunately, things like collar bells and de-clawing make little difference. In other words, do your best to keep your indoor cat away from your outdoor pets. In the end, it will be better for both of them.
Help to reduce window collisions
Each year, millions of wild birds are killed by colliding with windows. Oftentimes, the window is reflecting the sky or vegetation, and the bird is fooled into thinking it can fly through them. Luckily, the answer to this problem is relatively simple. First, identify problem windows (typically larger, reflective windows, those near the ground, or those that "look through" the house). By attaching colorful decals or other decorations to the outside surface of the window, you can effectively reduce the reflections that the window creates.
In addition, wild birds that are fleeing predators, including predatory birds, are particularly likely to collide with windows. After all, their mind is on other things, like survival. If you notice this as a problem, consider moving your feeders to within three feet of the problem window -- this prevents fleeing birds from accelerating to the point where a collision becomes life threatening. If you want to be even safer, you could install screens that allow birds to bounce off instead of crashing into the glass.
These are just a few helpful tips, but there is much more to be learned about creating a successful environment for outdoor pets. Find out more at your local wild bird shop. In addition, online resources like www.wbfi.org can be useful in learning about wild birds and outdoor pets, their diets, and how to feed them. Courtesy of ARA Content.