Anne Schamuss has written two books, including a monthly guide to attracting backyard birds. Photograph by Stefan Wachs.
AVIAN APPRECIATION IS A FAMILY AFFAIR for Anne Schmauss. She opened her Wild Birds Unlimited store in Santa Fe in the early 2000s, inspired by her sisters, Geni Krolick and Mary Schmauss, avid birders with a successful Wild Birds franchise in Albuquerque. Schmauss started sharing her birding knowledge in a weekly column for The Santa Fe New Mexican. She has written two books, including a monthly guide to attracting backyard birds. In January, Schmauss sold her shop, turned the column over, and set off for a life of travel (when it’s possible) and relaxation, where she hopes to see many birds.
PEOPLE ARE INTIMIDATED by the whole “being a birder” idea, like you have to be some sort of expert. You really do not. It can be as simple as making sure that when you plant your backyard, you plant native, berry-producing and seed-producing varieties of plants and trees. Bird-friendly plants make a big difference.
Adding a birdbath and a variety of feeders is huge. But if you do that in a barren yard, you’re not going to get much variety of birds. You have to create the oasis and habitat for them to come.
A lot of birds nest in shrubs and trees—and even on the ground. A lot of our native grasses have these seed heads at the top of them later in the summer, and birds eat that. You will sometimes see birds clinging on to these grasses blowing in the wind—they’re plucking those seeds.
You don’t want to have the same kind of food in five different feeders. You want a good-quality mix of birdseed: heavy in sunflower, sunflower chips, and maybe some nuts. Look at the label. Grain and milo are fillers, and many birds don’t eat them. Not all birds eat seeds. Some are suet-eating birds, mostly insect-eating birds like woodpeckers and warblers.
I had a hanging geranium plant on the back of my portal. A Bullock’s oriole, this really beautiful orange bird with black wings, landed on the geranium and just started plucking the petals off.
They are nectar eaters and fruit eaters—you can attract them with oranges and things. But I hadn’t had any luck attracting them, so I just froze when I saw that. If you saw one fly in front of your window, you would be excited, too. They are really stunning birds.