Yellow Warbler by Ken Crebbin ©

Backyard Birds

by Ken Crebbin
March 16, 2014



Balitmore Oriole


There are many varieties of birds in the Calgary area; in fact, there are about 350 species in Alberta.  With a little bit of luck and a basic understanding of the birds in your area, some can be attracted to your backyard.    If you can meet their basic needs, such as protective cover, housing, food, and water some of these birds can be attracted to your backyard and enticed to possibly stay.



Cedar Waxwing


Water is a basic need for all birds; running water or the sound of running water seems to attract Warblers and Baltimore Orioles as well as a few other species.


Purple Finch by Ken Crebbin ©


Purple Finch

Sunflower seeds, Niger seed, peanuts and suet are readily available and many birds thrive on these sources of food.

Planting trees, shrubs and flowers in your backyard can also attract bird;, check what plants are good in your area for birds.


American Goldfinch by Ken Crebbin ©


American Goldfinch

Placing bird houses in your backyard can work well for bluebirds, woodpeckers, swallows, house wrens, and chickadees to mention just a few.  There are many sites on line that give directions on building species specific bird houses. When using bird houses make sure to monitor and maintain them.



Rufous Hummingbird



Ruby-throated Hummingbird

For most of my photographs taken in my back yard, I used a 300mm lens (sometimes with my 2x teleconverter) and a blind.  I find the blind very useful for getting close to birds.  I leave the blind out for a few days while the birds get used to it.  I select natural looking perches and place them around my feeders and birdhouses.  These make great props.  These perches can be mounted on a homemade stand or in Christmas tree or umbrella stands.  Experimenting on the location of the perch is important.  Consider the background when placing your perch as the bokeh lends to the picture.


Chicakadee by Ken Crebbin ©




House Sparrow by Ken Crebbin ©


House Sparrow



House Finch


Junco by Ken Crebbin ©



Using Niger seed, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet attracts these birds to my feeders:

American goldfinch (Niger seed)
Downy woodpeckers, Hairy woodpeckers and Flickers (sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet)
Hummingbirds (4 parts water to 1 part sugar in hummingbird feeder)
Chickadees and Nuthatches (sunflower seeds and suet)
House finch and Purple finch (sunflower seeds and Niger seed)
Crows Magpies and Starling - not my favourite, but they are birds too (eat anything, but like suet the most)
House wrens, Warblers and Juncos (Niger seed and mealworms)
Many varieties of sparrows (mixed bird seed and Niger seed)
Mealworms attract a lot of smaller birds in the summer when they are feeding young in the nest.

Northern Flicker by Ken Crebbin ©


Northern Flicker


Downy Woodpecker by Ken Crebbin ©


Downy Woodpecker



Hairy Woodpecker


White Breasted Nuthatch by Ken Crebbin ©


White Breasted Nuthatch



Red Breasted Nuthatch


Bluejay by Ken Crebbin ©




A big consideration is your own comfort.  You can spend many hours waiting patiently in your blind to get that “great” shot – so make sure you have your own creature comforts; a good chair, a good beverage of your choice, and maybe a good bird book to help pass some of the time.  I find the National Geographic and Sibley’s bird books very good references, as well as the “Breeding Birds of Alberta”.


Bohemian Waxwing by Ken Crebbin ©


Bohemian Waxwing


Chicakadee in flight by Ken Crebbin ©



I find the best time to photograph birds is early morning or early evening as the birds seem most active at these times and the lighting is best. Bird photography can be a very pleasant, enjoyable and challenging hobby; getting a great shot is rewarding. 


Ken Crebbin portrait


Bio: Ken Crebbin is an amateur photographer living south of Calgary. Ken uses Nikon equipment as described above and enjoys nature photography. I have always had an interest in nature, especially birds. Growing up in Calgary our family spent a lot of time camping and hiking in the foothills and mountains west of Calgary. In the 1980’s my wife and I moved to De Winton (just south of Calgary). With the Bow River at my doorstep I have had the opportunity to fish, hike and horseback ride through the river valley. I have also had an interest in photography since I was a youth. Recently I made the jump from film photography to digital and found combining my interest with birds and learning my new digital camera a worthwhile challenge









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