- April 15, 2011
At The Lake
Whether you have lake-front property on a destination lake or a local fishing hole, a year-round lake view or a seasonal-use cottage, you can turn your shoreline landscape into a bird haven. Birds like the Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, and Osprey are commonly found along shorelines across North America. Even if your “yard” is just open water, you still have the potential to see more birds from home than most people hope to get on their yard list.
The key to attracting these postcard-worthy birds is providing places to nest. As mature trees are cut to make way for homes, potential cavities are removed from this prime habitat. Put some real estate back on the map for birds! Apartment-style Purple Martin houses are available commercially and can be used by many martins at once; however, you will need to wait until the martins migrate back to your area before putting out these houses, as they are quickly overtaken by House Sparrows or European Starlings if left up all winter. Tree swallows also build nests in holes near water; both natural tree cavities and wooden nestboxes (like the kind used by bluebirds) are perfect. Ospreys are a fish-eating raptor that build large nests near water, often on man-made structures. You can build your own osprey nesting platform to attract breeding pairs by following plans available on the Internet. You have so many options for attracting these and other lake-loving fliers that you really can’t go wrong.
In addition to providing nesting spaces for birds, you can help lakeshore birds by limiting the use of pesticides and herbicides on your property. These chemicals wash into your lake or pond with rainfall and reduce water quality for aquatic animals (which are food for birds). In fact, Osprey populations have rebounded tremendously from the declines caused by DDT (and related pesticides), which were banned in 1972 in the US. Both Purple Martin and Tree Swallow are insectivores and will help keep populations of flying insects in check. You can make positive changes for these and other birds by protecting water quality and leaving snags, large trees, and other key structures in their habitat.