Tim Joyce of Mount Prospect is a birdscaper, a position he says he created himself to help people attract a variety of migrating and native birds to their backyards.
Joyce's interest in birding began at age 5 after receiving a book on Midwest birds, and he took to birdscaping his own yard in Lincolnshire and neighbors' yards soon after that. Joyce's first birdscape was in Ann Flick's backyard. A neighbor at the time, she has since been a client for 32 years.
Clients who hire Joyce want help feeding birds and not nuisance animals such as squirrels, deer or raccoons. A birdscape starts with assessing the neighborhood along with vegetation on the property.
"The bird activity is driven by the ecosystem in the area," said Joyce, who also can install feeders and birdhouses.
A great start is a yard with deciduous and coniferous trees such as Flick's backyard, where Joyce recently replaced three birdhouses.
"She has a pond with a waterfall which is about the best thing for attracting birds," he said.
Joyce stresses location when installing bird feeders and birdhouses.
During routine visits to clients' homes, Joyce checks feeders, replaces parts as needed and disassembles feeders to clean them.
"It's great to get the birds their nutrition but customers are going through the expense of the bird seed to watch the show," he said.
Joyce fills most feeders with a no-mess blend of seeds without shells. Joyce recommends no-melt peanut butter suet plugs to attract downy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, or northern flickers and transitional suet cakes with nuts to attract chickadees and nuthatches -- Joyce's favorite bird. In Illinois you can attract colorful American golden finches to your yard with thistle seed dispatched through a special feeder.
"Sunflower seeds bring in the widest variety of birds," Joyce said.
Joyce birdscapes year-round but early spring and fall are his busiest times of year with new customers wanting to attract migrating birds.
Having water available throughout the year is an important component to attracting a wide variety of birds to a backyard, even birds that only eat insects such as warblers, Joyce says.
"Birds bring me an incredible amount of joy," he said. "If I can coach someone into bringing the right birds to their yard and they get that same joy, I've accomplished my mission."