Growing Plants for Birds
Want to add some winged wonder to your backyard? Don't worry&mdash it's not that hard. All it takes is a little know-how and the addition of a few bird- and butterfly-friendly plants. And before you know it, you'll have all sorts of colorful characters dropping by your yard.
Calling All Birds
No doubt about it, birds liven up a backyard. But it takes more than a feeder to turn a ho-hum backyard into a haven. You have to know the basics of "birdscaping."
Just what does that mean?
Birdscaping is providing everything feathered friends need to survive in your backyard. For most birds, that means three things: food, shelter and water.
Berries, seeds and nectar—the three basic food groups for birds. Make them available in your yard, and you'll enjoy a flurry of feathered friends.
Trees and shrubs with berries that hang onto bare branches throughout the winter are especially important to birds. Crabapples, dogwoods, mountain ash, serviceberries, hawthorns and elderberries are some of their favorites.
Perennials provide nectar and seed. Some, like purple coneflower and black-eyed Susans, supply both. Hosta seeds attract juncos, while coneflowers and rudbeckia bring in the finches. Ornamental grasses are a real treat for birds because their seed heads provide food when the birds need it most—in winter.
If it's hummingbirds you want, provide some top-notch nectar sources. Brightly colored trumpet-shaped flowers, such as fuchsia, salvia and trumpet vine, are good bets. Some gardeners add a hummingbird feeder to guide the birds to the nectar-rich flowers in their gardens.
You may want to supplement your landscape buffet with a few feeders. Feeders should offer a variety of food, including seed, suet and sugar water.
Birds not only need protection from the elements, they need protection from predators, too. That said, no "birdscaped" backyard is complete without evergreens. Birds roost in them because their dense branches provide a safe place for hiding and nesting. In northern areas, they also protect from cold, cutting winds. Added benefits include fantastic winter color and seed—producing cones that provide nourishment to birds in winter.
Deciduous shrubs and trees are also important to a bird-friendly landscape. If you have limited space, consider small ornamental trees. Some bird species will use the crotches for nesting, and many ornamental trees produce berries for food.
Even standing dead trees and fallen logs make excellent nesting sites. If you don't have this natural habitat in your yard, add a birdhouse and give nature a hand.
Birds love the stuff. Whether it's to drink or bathe in, water is critical to attracting birds. A simple birdbath, fountain or pond will do the trick. Just make sure the visiting birds can be seen from inside the house and the sitting areas in the garden.
The sound of running or dripping water attracts birds from quite a distance. For the most action, add a submersible pump, mister or dripper to your birdbath or water garden to make water move.
As you can see, "birdscaping" isn't rocket science, but it does take a little planning to select trees, shrubs and flowers that serve the birds' needs. But your efforts will be rewarded...with those colorful feathered friends you've been dreaming of.