Monday, October 8, 2007
Attract Birds to Your Garden by Adding Features that Birds Like
Many gardeners are bird watchers too, and they can design a garden with features that birds like. Birds look for food, shelter, nesting sites, and water—having just some of these will encourage birds to visit.
Providing food for birds
Do a little research on the birds that are common in your area and the types of food that they prefer if you want to make the most of feeders.
There are two ways to provide food : through bird feeders and by growing plants around your yard that offer fruits, seeds and a habitat that birds love. Black oil sunflower seed is the best seed to attract a diverse group of birds to your feeder, including chickadees, nuthatches, finches, cardinals, grosbeaks, sparrows, blackbirds and jays.
To attract insect-eating birds such as woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches, offer suet in the wintertime. Ground feeding birds like juncos, sparrows, towhees and mourning doves prefer cracked corn scattered on the ground or placed in an elevated tray.
Plants to add to your landscape include serviceberry, dogwood, fir, hawthorn, sweet gum, crabapple, pine, coralberry and fruit-bearing viburnums. Seed-producing flowers that will attract birds include aster, blanket flower, cone flower, sunflowers, black-eyed Susans, California poppies, goldenrod, marigolds, phlox, salvias and zinnias.
Providing shelter for birds
Birds like transition zones between dense forest and open space—a garden with tall grasses, shrubbery, and patches of open breezy trees will provide shelter and attract lots of birds. Ideally, there should be patches of growth in the open and open spaces among the trees. Trees take a long time to grow and many gardeners don’t have the space, but most gardens can be designed with patches of taller shrubbery at the edges or near other garden features. Keep in mind that shrubs can shelter predators as well, a factor to consider when locating feeders, bird baths, and dust baths for birds.
Providing nesting sites for birds
A garden with good bird shelter will also offer nesting possibilities. Leave old trees with cavities in them, if possible, as these will entice cavity-nesting birds. If you want to add nesting boxes, platforms, or shelves, you might want to wait till autumn—many birds start nesting very early in spring, and a new nest box hung in the fall will be weathered and feel more natural by spring.
To encourage birds with nest building, offer short bits of string, yarn, thread, and hair, fabric scraps, twigs and other nesting materials. Dead plants from last season offer nesting materials as well, so don’t be too tidy!
Providing water for birds
A bird bath is the most popular way to provide birds with water. Locate the bath away from garden features that provide hiding places for cats and other predators, but close enough to shrubbery to give birds a place to flee to. Make sure you refresh the water in the bird bath regularly. You can also add a water feature to your garden, like a pond or waterfall, or provide a regular spray with a sprinkler or soaker hose. Some gardeners also build a dust bath for birds to help them with preening.