Birding for Small Spaces

Attracting birds doesn’t take a lot of space. Try our tips for birding in small spaces like balconies or windowsills.

Just because you don’t have a backyard doesn’t mean attracting birds is out of reach. People who live in apartment houses or condos, who have only a balcony or even just a windowsill, can also enjoy watching birds feed, bathe and sometimes even nest, just outside their windows. You can easily meet the three basic needs of wildlife-food, water and cover-in any outdoor location, whatever the size may be. The idea for small-space birding is to think tiny, as in a microcosm of a backyard.

Because natural cover is the key ingredient of any successful backyard wildlife habitat, natural cover has to be an important part of the microhabitat. If you are dealing with a small balcony, then two or three potted evergreens or shrubs, 2 to 3 feet high, will work perfectly. The natural vegetation will give the birds a place to hide, and even build nests, out of predators’ sight. The availability of hiding places in the potted plants may also give the birds more confidence to visit your mini bird sanctuary, attracting birds no matter how small the space.

The same is true of water. There are many ways to offer birds a place to drink and bathe on a balcony. A simple ceramic dish on a pedestal, which you clean and freshen often, will work just fine. Be sure that the water is no more than 2 inches deep, so that the birds can stand on the bottom while bathing. An even better water feature is a small recirculating pool that pumps water to the top as it flows back to the bottom. The movement and sound of the water will act like a magnet to any passing bird.

Finally, food for birds is the easiest of all to provide. If the potted shrubs you already have just happen to produce fruits or berries for the birds to eat, it’s the best of both worlds. But setting up a variety of bird feeders, containing an assortment of seed, fruits and suet, may be the best way to offer food to birds. Feeders are easy to refill, too.

If your home doesn’t have a balcony, then you can downsize even further. A windowsill, perhaps extended by a board or box, will provide enough space to offer the birds food, water and cover. Even though the space is meager, small potted plants, a bowl of water and small feeders with seed, fruits and suet will do the job. The best thing about this birding setup is that all you have to do to maintain the habitat is raise the window.

You may be surprised how well the birds in your neighborhood will adapt to a windowsill or other small space. You might even find them tapping on your window when you need to refill the feeders or birdbath!

  1. Allie says

    Go for it! Our little friends need all the help they can get. It is so special to see them. Watched two nuthatches (upside down of course) this morning on my neighbor’s tree–mom was feeding the same sized fledgling a bug. Love ‘em. :)

  2. Joan Gagnon says

    While we were wintering in Yuma, I cut a grapefruit in half, scooped out the fruit and let the peel dry for a few days. Then attach cord through 3 evenly spaced holes in the peel and filled them haves with bird seed. The finches loved it and were there every morning waiting for the peels to be refilled

  3. Lea Ann Barnhart says

    I’ve lived in an apartment in Lincoln, NE for the last year and a half. I’ve put birdseeds in a saucer of a flower pot and water in a tray on my balcony during this time. I have been amazed at the number and species of birds that have come to my little bird area. During the winter they came 20 to 30 at a time and this was such a joy to see during such a cold and horrible winter. Well worth the little bit of effort I had to do.

  4. Christine Allard says

    Can we attract birds up to a 3rd floor balcony or are we too high? I’ve had feeders & water bowls w/pumps & lots of various sizes of plants & hiding places to no avail but lots of birds flying around below our balconies.

    • Alice Carlson says

      I’m on third floor in Denver…took a while but the birds are at my baths and feeders all the time, once discovered, others follow! One of the baths is heated…love watching birds in the winter come around for a drink!

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