About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, July 2, 2012

How to garden for birds

This is my first year to pamper the birds that visit me. I have learned alot about the habits of certain species and since I have alot of flowers, I even see some in summer. What are other birds common to summer gardens beside the hummingbird? I live on the edge of the woods, like only 10 ft. There is a swamp beyond a stretch of woods.

Landscaping your yard to provide native plant cover and natural foods for birds is a good way to attract birds and provide them with sanctuary. The variety of birds you’ll see depends on where you live.

Most native flowers, bushes, and trees like birds to help pollinate their flowers, eat harmful insects, and disperse their seeds. A customer came in the other day with a precisely planned garden except for a giant teasel plant in the middle. She thought the plant was so exotic she left it to bloom.

My favorite birds in the garden are the goldfinches and habitat can be a key to attracting them. In this case you do less work, not more. Don't worry about dandelions and don't cut off the tops of your marigold, zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers or coneflowers... goldfinches love them. The birds make the flowers dance as they flit from flower to flower looking for seed heads.

If the woods has some dead trees left standing you could attract a variety of woodpeckers, owls and other tree cavity nesters. And jays, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, robins and woodpeckers like to eat nuts (acorn, walnut, beech…) and most are also attracted to pine and spruce seeds.

Lots of flycatchers, warblers and vireos will nest in dense shrubs or thickets at the edge of a wooded area. It is nice if there are some species of thorny trees like wild crab apples, or hawthorn to provide safe nesting habitat and food. Evergreens like spruce, holly, or juniper also provide cover and food.

Fruit trees are also important. Once you hear the high pitched trill of the Cedar Waxwings, you’ll never forget. They are big fruit eaters and come to feed in large numbers. Native berry producing trees and shrubs attract them and often encourage them to nest in the area. Some other birds that like fruit are bobwhites, cardinals, crows, grackles, bluebirds, towhees, starlings, grosbeaks, catbirds, woodpeckers, finches, mockingbirds, orioles, and buntings.

Raspberry thickets are a favorite nesting location for many Indigo Buntings. The dense, thorny stems provide the nestlings with protection from many predators and the berries provide a convenient source of food.

Make sure you don’t use pesticides on the flowers. Let the birds handle that naturally. And brush piles or leaves raked under the trees also will attract many songbirds. Ground-feeding birds like sparrows, towhees, robins and thrashers will eat the earthworms, pill bugs, insects, and spiders that thrive in the decomposing leaf mulch.

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