I stopped by Kay and Tom Jourdan's house in Allen Park last weekend and got quite the surprise when they showed me photos of the pheasant that appeared in their back yard. I shouldn't have been surprised, though. Over the years this small house in the middle of the city, with its postage-stamp for a backyard, has seen quite the number of migrant birds. It is living proof that if you provide food, water, and protective shelter you can attract all sorts of neat stuff.
The old house is located on Fox Ave. near Moore Rd. The nearest creek (Ecorse Drain) is a mile away. But with a large Blue Spruce in front of the house, a large Silver Maple, several White Fir trees and a neighbor's Mulberry Tree in the backyard, the house has become an oasis for wildlife moving through the area. Besides mice (and Norway Rats) we've found Opossum in the front bushes, Garter and Ribbon Snakes (mostly 'cause we caught 'em at the creek and they escaped the aquariums...), and even had a baby duckling in an inflatable pool (escaped from down the block and found our yard!).
We've been feeding birds since I can remember. It was here, as a 5-year old that I became aware of birds when we found a Cedar Waxwing (dead) hanging by some fishing line from our 30 ft. American Elm in the front yard. Dad pulled out the Encyclopedia Brittanica (Volume 'B' free w/ $20 of groceries from the supermarket) and looked up 'birds'. The 20 pages of bird pictures amazed us, especially when we found the picture of a Cedar Waxwing. I had suddenly become aware of the diverse world of birds - before that I only knew of House Sparrows, Blue Jays, Robins and Cardinals.
Though we would lose that Elm to the Dutch, and later lose the Blue Spruce, we've continued to attract the great birds over the years. Yellow-rumped Warblers, House Wrens, Song Sparrows, White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows, Hermit Thrush, Veery, Swainson's Thrush, Wood Thrush, Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow Warblers, and Gray Catbird. During the winter of 1988 we hosted a pair of White-winged Crossbills that shared the thistle feeders with a flock of Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls. Though it took a few years to finally attract them we've had a steady population of American Goldfinches and House Finches year-round. And each fall we anticipate the arrival of several pair of Dark-eyed Juncos.
A resident Cooper's Hawk continues to make life interesting, and even the neighbors keep an eye out for it and call Dad when it shows up!
So, if you believe that your home is too small to attract birds, you might be surprised by what you're capable of attracting with just a bit of food, water and shelter. Now I'm just waiting to see a White-winged Scoter show up in Dad's bird bath....