Avant Gardening

This one is for the birds!

Why add birds to your garden? Their flashes of color, the entertainment they provide and their natural pest controlling abilities would be high on the list of advantages. But how can you attract birds? Well, they need four main things for basic survival: shelter, nesting sites, food and water.

Evergreens and shrubs are wonderful providers of shelter and the favored choice of some, both from the elements and from predators. Some birds prefer deciduous trees. If you can, offer diversity in the variety of trees, shrubs and plants you have, this will provide the best variety of avian visitors.  Reduce lawn area, remove invasive plants and replace them with native ones favored by most species.

Nesting Sites
Dead trees offer holes and other secure places to raise their young. If that is not an option, you could offer nesting boxes. Best siting would be set 5’ off the ground and strong enough to withstand high winds or severe weather. It would be even better if it was on a freestanding metal pole to discourage predators like squirrels or cats.

Food & Water
Plant a variety of flowers to attract insects and supply nectar for the entire course of the year to feed the birds. Limit the use of pesticides and insecticides. Many species of birds rely on blackberry, elderberry, serviceberry, raspberry and mulberry fruits in their diets. Flowers like petunias, honeysuckle and bleeding hearts are wonderful for attracting humming birds and orioles. For the bird feeder, sunflower seed, millet, cracked corn, thistle seed, and suet are the most common choices to offer birds. Remember also that there are birds that are ground feeders as well. Humming bird feeders may be set up and/or sliced fruit placed on spikes to offer to oriels. Jelly (not jam) can be put in shallow dishes for orioles in late March or early April to tempt them into staying. Their preference changes to insects, mealworms, and suet once they need higher protein levels to feed their young.

Water needs to be provided year round both for drinking and bathing. The addition of a heater in a bird bath will do wonders in attracting birds in the winter and the sound from a fountain can draw their attention in the spring and summer.

These are some suggestions and by no means must all of them be done to make your yard attractive to birds. Often all it takes is a few additions or modifications to your garden to make positive results in the kind and number of birds that you attract. The rewards of inviting them into your space can be truly enchanting.