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I live with my parents. I love bird watching, and would love a bird feeder, but my mother does not want to keep one fearing it will attract rodents which may carry lyme disease. We've had bad experiences with lyme.

Is there any other way I can attract birds to my yard? Is the concern regarding rodents a valid one?

  • @Sue - I have a couple of suggestions: Yes - Feeders take regular maintenance. You want to clean up the feed on the ground so the birds don't eat it. It will get damp and moldy. They birds can get very sick and will eventually die if they eat this seed. If you go with a hummingbird feeder, be sure to clean it regularly. Don't use red dye either. Read number 3. on this page: birds.cornell.edu/Page.aspx%3Fpid%3D1317 This is Cornell Lab or Ornithology's website. They have lots of resources, and they will answer any questions you might have if you send them a message. – user14513 Mar 26 '18 at 23:00
  • @phrazzled & Sue: please continue your discussion in the chat section of this website - part of phrazzled's answer was cutoff by the comment limitation, as answer was more of a comment. chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/2291/the-base-camp – studiohack Mar 27 '18 at 20:14
  • @studiohack: No problem. Sorry. Once you get me started talking about birds, I sort of just keep going and going...and going... – user14513 Mar 29 '18 at 13:10
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Apart from the water, you could also have an area with dry sand/pebbles for dirt baths. Birds do like them (I see them do it often where I live), and it's an actually effective "washing method". If it's very wet where you live, they will likely appreciate it.

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Plant Plants.

Birds are drawn to various plants for various reasons. Off the top of my head:

  1. To gather nesting material - small twigs or fluffy seeds
  2. As a nesting location - good cover or protected location
  3. To eat insects that are attracted to the plants - flowering plants will be covered in insects which myriad birds eat - even when they are commonly known as seed eaters birds will look for the protein in insects. Heck, insects are a huge part of even a hummingbird's diet.
  4. To eat the seeds. This might feel like little more like putting out a feeder (which is undesirable), but in this case there won't be the massive quantities being dumped out at once. The plants will ripen their seeds over time and they may be of no interest to many rodents anyway.
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For what you could do to attract birds without a feeder, I would suggest a birdbath, and we have a few questions on them already.

Yes, the concern of it being spread by rodents is valid.

Density of infected nymphs—the principal determinant of Lyme disease risk—varied significantly from year to year, fueled mostly by large fluctuations in total nymph density, which in turn depended mostly on fluctuations in abundance of acorns, mice, and chipmunks. Interestingly, though chipmunk densities are generally lower than mice, their numbers were the best predictor of total nymph density in the subsequent year, likely reflecting their inferior grooming skills. Overall, the results found that acorns were the best predictor of Lyme disease risk—stemming from their crucial role in supporting white-footed mice, chipmunks, and likely other small animals, which in turn provide large reservoirs for B. burgdorferi.

A New View on Lyme Disease: Rodents Hold the Key to Annual Risk

Peromyscus spp. (white-footed mouse) in the northeastern and mid-western USA, and other rodents (tree squirrel) in the western USA

Diseases indirectly transmitted by rodents

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    As promoted in TV gardening programs, a pond in the garden will allow birds to come in and drink or use it as a bath. Just make sure there is a low edge of the surrounds that meets the water level. – Willeke Mar 20 '18 at 11:03

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