SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Springtime is just about to bloom. So how do you attract a few good-looking birds? To the gardener balcony, that is. We're joined now by Malcie Smith, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. He joins us from the studios of the BBC in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. Thanks very much for being with us.
MALCIE SMITH: Hi, Scott. You're welcome.
SIMON: What kind of food do you put out this time of year?
SMITH: Just a wide range of nuts and seeds would be quite good. Sunflower seeds particularly are very good.
SIMON: Forgive me for not knowing this, but do certain kind of nuts and seeds attract certain kinds of birds?
SMITH: Yeah. I mean, you get a lot of birds that'll be effectively seedeaters, but in the breeding season, they'll also feed on a lot of insects and caterpillars and stuff that they'll take to their chicks.
SIMON: If you have a garden, I supposed, the caterpillars just show up, but if you're on a balcony, as a lot of us urban dwellers are.
SIMON: What do you do to supplement the old diet there?
SMITH: Probably the best thing you could do to attract a good range of wildlife into your garden, or even onto your balcony, is to plant up a good range of native plants, from small flowering herbaceous plants right up to native trees. There's an excellent website, the National Wildlife Federation, nwf.org, and they include a really good section on what native plants to include depending on what region of the States you live in.
SIMON: How do you keep unwanted intruders from catching up with the birds or eating their food before they can?
SMITH: Yeah, depends what you mean by unwanted intruders. If you're thinking about stuff like just a common or garden domestic cat, you should put your birdfeeders quite close to some cover, say about 10 or 12 feet away from some bushes or some shrubs. This allows a decent distance so that your cat, for example, can't use the cover as cover for themselves to attack.
SMITH: But also to provide a bit of cover for the birds should they want to dash and hide somewhere.
SIMON: I have to ask you, Malcie, in Scotland does anybody put out haggis for the birds?
SMITH: Oh, you've got to be joking. Actually...
SIMON: Is it possible to talk to someone who's Scottish and not make a haggis joke?
SMITH: No, it's not. Haggis would actually probably be very nutritious, very fatty. It's full of grains and suet. That would be really good for birds actually. I never thought of that.
SIMON: Oh, come on. You've never tried it? Never, now surely you've taken a little bit of leftover haggis and laid it out for the cat?
SMITH: Oh, no, I keep it all myself.
SIMON: Malcie Smith of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Malcie, thanks so much for being with us. Good birding to you, my friend.
SMITH: You're welcome.
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SIMON: This is NPR News.
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