For the birds, you’ll need a different mindset when planning your gardens. For starters, the only birds you will be attempting to attract will be those native to your area. That means landscaping with plants that are native to your area too. Each bird specie has unique requirements for food and shelter. Natural sources of food and shelter can only be found with plants and habitat that meet your bird’s requirements for their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. This also applies to many other species whose habitat is disappearing, like the Monarch Butterfly. I’m very fortunate to live in a rural area yet close to a wonderful city, Columbia, Missouri, where everything around me on my little 42 acres is mostly all native and natural. It’s a furry, chirpy, soft, warm, fuzzy feeling to observe the nature around me knowing that I have provided home and habitat for them.
While native habitat for the birds and bees, butterflies and their friends is and has been fast disappearing for many years now, it doesn’t have to be that way. We all live in homes. Most of our homes have some sort of landscaping. With just a little thought and planning we can invite our nature neighbors back into their habitat which we disrupted and enjoy their wonderful company.
It’s not that difficult. Simply do a little research to learn which species are native to your area and then ‘set the table for them’—be a good host by providing them habitat; the food, water and shelter that they need.
For starters a bird feeder in winter is a good first bird-hop for your birds to see your property as having potential interest for them. While they entertain you during those otherwise dreary winter months, you provide them essential food/sustenance to survive that winter. And while the feeder may be more for our own entertainment and sense of benevolence than anything else, they do attract many of our feathered friends to our neighborhood. Some of those attracted may be more desirable than others. My opinion is that the noisy aggressive ones are less a problem if feeders are used only in winter in cold to moderate climates and not at all in warm climates.
The very best plan is to plant a garden that will produce seeds, berries and fruit where nature can provide for them year-round. The Audubon Society can help with specific suggestions.
Native trees and shrubs are important because they host native insects while providing safety from prediters. We (at least most of us) think insects need to be eradicated. We spend billions of dollars on insecticides to accomplish that.We also “import” plants not native to our areas. Why? Is it an attempt to bring some sort of dream-world image where it isn’t? It just doesn’t have to be that way. In fact—it shouldn’t be that way! Those natural insects and plants are a vital part of nature’s delicate balance and a very important food source for our birds. They have evolved over eons for a reason!
While ‘pest management’ for gardeners is a long and complicated subject—some of those ‘pests’ become Monarch Butterflies. I would venture to guess that they all have a purpose and a place if only we knew what it was. Don’t we all wish we knew what ours is!
Nest boxes are one of the easiest things to do. I’ve put several boxes out for Bluebirds with great success. It is quite amusing to observe that while they pair and mate—they also ‘cheat’ on each other when their mate’s away.
Build or buy your nest boxes for the birds—not for how ‘cute’ you may think the nest box is. It’s the BIRDS who are going to choose their nest-home—not you. You’ll know if you’ve done a good job if your birds actually select you box for their home.
OK, here are some very important considerations. Just as in Real Estate: location, location, location is very important.You will need to research the type of nest box and location for each bird specie you’re trying to host. If you don’t get it right, no-one will come, at least not the guest you were hoping for.
Birdbaths really are for bathing. Birds really do bathe frequently and it’s essential for them and their health. It helps them to stay warm in winter and cool in summer.
Birdbaths can be an elegant feature of any garden. Like a feeder, it can provide pleasant observation for many hours of blissful reverie.
Heated pools are very important for cold climates. They provide drinking and bathing water while preventing destruction from freezing. They are a good partner for feeders.
Your backyard doesn’t have to be sterile for either you or the birds. Bring it to life! Put in plants. Install birdhouses and feeders. Enjoy life—yours and the birds in your backyard.