As fans of the outdoors, one of our favorite pastimes, particularly in fall and winter, is watching birds. Their bright colors and cheery chirps and songs give a lift to the darkest and coldest of days during the winter.

Attracting birds to your landscape is not difficult, nor is it expensive. You don’t need a large yard, either. Here’s how.

There are several birds common to our area: chickadees, titmice, cardinals, blue jays, finches, nuthatches and several types of woodpeckers are all plentiful in Oklahoma. They need three things to come to your backyard: food, water and some sort of cover, like trees or shrubs.

Almost all birds like black-oil sunflower seeds, as well as striped sunflower seeds; they like peanuts and suet and, to a lesser degree, cheaper seed like millet.

You can purchase sunflower seeds for birds in any home or garden center, hardware store or wildlife specialty store. It is best to purchase a bird feeder that is squirrel-proof, as these critters will steal seeds from birds.

Suet is a type of food for birds that contains fruit, seeds and peanut butter or lard, and the fat, in particular, provides birds with much-needed energy for the winter. Suet can be purchased in cakes in any home or garden center, but it is also very easy and inexpensive to make yourself.

Here is a suet recipe that anyone can make: In a medium bowl, mix 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup sugar and ½ cup flour together. Add ¾ cup water and mix again. Put 1 cup peanut butter and 1 cup lard in a small bowl and microwave for 2 minutes. Add to the cornmeal mixture; add 1 cup raisins and mix it all together. Refrigerate for about 2 hours.

You can share suet with birds in a number of ways: purchase a small wire cage designed for suet at a local garden center. Press your mixture into a pan and freeze; break into pieces that will fit in the cage.

Alternatively, shape your suet mixture into balls, attach a string or put in mesh bag, freeze and then hang from branches in your yard. Finally, simply take your refrigerated mixture and spread it on limbs of trees. Birds love suet, no matter how it is presented to them.

Water is another essential element to attract birds to your yard. A simple birdbath is easy to make using a large saucer designed to go under a pot.

Fill with water and keep fresh and clean.

Plastic or ceramic birdbaths are inexpensive, as well, and they make nice decorations in your yard, too. There are also birdbath heaters, elements that are submerged in birdbaths and plugged in to keep water from freezing during really cold weather.

If you are an avid bird watcher, you may want to invest in a heater so birds have a constant source of water.

Finally, birds need some sort of shelter or cover for protection; this is easily provided by shrubs or trees in your yard. Any type of shrubbery or trees will work; rose bushes and evergreens are terrific for cover, as is the residue from your summer garden.

Or, install bird houses in your landscape; they are easily purchased in any home and garden center. There are also instructions on how to build a birdhouse, easily found on the internet.

If you follow these simple steps, you can attract birds to your yard all winter long and enjoy the show they provide. Nothing is more beautiful than a bright red cardinal in your yard on a snowy winter day.

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