Gardening and bird watching are two of the fastest growing hobbies in North America today. With millions of Americans enjoying their gardens every year and millions more peeping through their binoculars at their feathered friends we can hardly overlook this trend. I am a firm believer in finding ways to mix my passions so to me, it just seems like attracting birds to the garden would be an obvious way to enjoy both hobbies at once.
There are some basic elements required for attracting birds to your yard. You will want to provide food sources, nesting areas, water and safety from predators.
Feeding birds – Of course adding a birdfeeder or two to your yard is a good start but with some good landscaping, you can also plant appropriate plants that provide a food source for birds.
• By including plants, trees and shrubs that bloom or set fruit at various times throughout the season, you will be appealing to the widest variety of birds.
• Hummingbirds are attracted to brightly-colored (typically red or pink) funnel-shaped flowers.
• Woodpeckers eat the insects that are found in older trees and shrubs that are no longer in their prime.
• Unraked areas under large trees offers an insect smorgasbord for bug-eating ground feeders.
• Many fruiting trees and shrubs such as cherry, elderberry, crab apple, dogwood, rose and honeysuckle provide fruit for a wide variety of species.
Nesting – many bird species will return to nest in the same place year after year. Providing a safe place to nest and nesting materials is as good as putting out a bird welcome mat.
• You can buy birdhouses or nesting boxes or build your own as a DIY project. The size of the entrance hole will regulate the species that are able to use the houses. If you are trying to attract a particular species, do a bit more research to find out what their ideal home would be.
• If you are installing birdhouses, put them up in a quiet, peaceful area to make them more appealing. You will also want to hang them in areas that are well out of the reach of neighborhood predators.
• Sticks, leaf litter, bits of string and even dryer lint are all great nesting materials to leave out in the spring.
• Having dense shrubs, pine trees and tall deciduous trees in your garden will provide plenty of natural nesting opportunities as well.
Birdbath – having a water source will help attract birds to your garden, the sound of running water is even more enticing to them.
• Place the birdbath so that birds can easily see approaching predators.
• Ensure that there is a perch nearby. A tree, shrub or fence will do.
• Keep the birdbath’s basin filled with clean fresh water. This may mean filling it daily. Considering the extreme drought some areas of the country have been experiencing lately, a little water will go a long way for thirsty birds.
• Keep the birdbath clean by giving it a scrub every few days.
• Stagnant water, if left unchanged will quickly become an insect breeding ground. A birdbath with moving water is a great investment.
Green Tip: Be particularly careful of the products used in your garden and lawn care treatment. You will need to keep it chemical-free for the health of the birds and of the insects they eat.
Even if you aren’t an avid birder, who doesn’t love the sound of a songbird in the evening or the flitting of a bright yellow wing in the morning sun? In addition to gardening and bird watching being enjoyable pastimes, with the continual loss and fragmentation of wildlife habitat in the United States, creating a bird-friendly garden is more important now than it has ever been.