Attracting birds to your yard is as simple as scattering birdseed on a picnic table. Keeping them around, though, requires a little more effort.

"Make sure the birdseed is fresh, and if you want a variety of birds, you need a variety of seeds," said Nick Brown, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Hixson.

Birdbaths and birdhouses can also entice birds to settle in your yard, but location is important.

"Where you place a birdhouse makes a difference," Brown said. "Some species like to be out in the open, while others like to be in a covered area with foliage. You can put birdhouses on a pole with a baffle - it prevents squirrels, raccoons and other predators from raiding birdhouses and getting the eggs."

Bird feeders attract more birds than birdhouses do, Brown said.

"Not every bird will use a birdhouse, but all birds eat, especially if you offer a good variety of seeds," he said.

Not all birds eat alike, though.

"Some birds, such as bluebirds, have short bills that aren't good to crack open seeds. They like food with sunflower chips (that have already been opened) and nuts out of the shell. A cardinal, on the other hand, has a thick bill and has more strength to crack seeds. A mix of seeds appeals to a great number of birds. Some birds eat insects and fruits. Therefore, a blend of birdseed is preferable because it appeals to a wide variety of tastes."

Make sure the birdseed is fresh, he said.

"If you have seed that birds won't touch, it means the seed is probably old or spoiled," he said. "Make sure that no water gets into the feeder. Water will spoil the seed."

When first putting out a feeder, it may take a week or two for birds to discover it.

"Once a bird finds it, others will soon come around," he said.

The recent tornadoes have had a negative impact on birds, Brown said.

"Robins, for example, build their nests in trees. Obviously a loss of trees affected them. But birds are resilient. Those that weren't physically injured probably built nests in other locations. Even in the horrific conditions after the tornadoes, we still have lots of foliage."

Bird lovers will appreciate the daily show birds offer.

"You start watching them, and you soon realize how clever they are. They have personalities. It's interesting to see the adults interact with their babies. They'll bring the babies close to the bird feeders or suet to show them where the food is. The adults will fly to the feeder, get the food and take back to the babies. They'll do it several times like they are coaxing them to fly down and get their own food."

myth busters

* MYTH: If you pick up a baby bird, its mother will abandon it.

TRUTH: "Most of us had a grandma who told us that if we pick up a bird it will absorb our scent and will be abandoned by the mother. Not true. Birds don't have a sense of smell. If they are in trouble and you don't see an adult bird close by, the best recourse is to put the bird in a shrub out of harm's way. Touching it will not prevent the adult from interacting with it."

* MYTH: Unprovoked birds will attack.

TRUTH: "Birds seldom attack, but when they do, they dive toward you, a cat or a squirrel in an effort to defend their nests."

* MYTH: Keeping feeders out in fall will prevent some birds, such as hummingbirds, from migrating.

TRUTH: "It has nothing to do with migration. Birds' migration patterns are about daylight hours, not feeders. It doesn't matter how many feeders you have in your yard, they will leave when it's time. Birds are smart."

Source: Nick Brown, Wild Birds Unlimited