In the Garden:
This birdbath makes a convenient drinking fountain for our masked friend.
Wild at Heart
Because we garden near the forest's edge, we have quite a number of feathered and furry critters visiting our landscape. They come at all hours of the day and night, and if I'm lucky I get to watch them. I'm not always happy with the way the furry ones rearrange or prune our plants, but I do respect their wild ways and wouldn't do anything to harm them. After all, they were here first, and I know their territory is shrinking with every new housing development.
I'm deliberately enticing wildlife by surrounding our property with a greenbelt of native plants. From a design point of view, native plants provide a nice transition from the forest to our more formally tended landscape. From a nature-enticing viewpoint, natives such as Oregon grape, evergreen huckleberry, and salal offer berries to birds and raccoons, as well as provide nesting spots or temporary shelter when the creatures feel the need to hide.
In addition to feasting on the wild berries, raccoons raid our pond and rearrange the plants, peel up the sod to collect fat, juicy grubs, and climb the trellis to eat our ripe grapes. I don't blame them for doing what comes naturally. It only takes a few minutes to right the wrongs, which I think is a pretty cheap price to pay for all the entertainment they provide.
Of all the wildlife that visits my garden, birds are the most welcome. I find their antics at the feeders amusing, and I know they're ridding my garden of hundreds of pesky insects each and every day. It's not difficult to accommodate our feathered friends; they're happy with the simple basics of food, shelter, and clean water. And no matter how small an area you have, you can make it a refuge for birds.
Decide first which species of birds you want to attract, then offer the kinds of food those particular birds prefer. You can hang bird feeders in your garden or add plants to create a natural source of food. You'll find that some birds are bold and others are shy; some feed on the ground, some come to any feeder, and others prefer the seclusion of trees. You'll attract the widest variety of birds by incorporating all of these elements into your garden.
Birds need shelter to protect them from the elements and allow them to hide from predators. Dense, twiggy shrubs and evergreens are the shelter of choice for most birds, but deciduous ornamental trees, shrubs, vines, and ground covers, as well as flowering annuals and perennials, can all provide food and protection. I've found that berry-producing trees and shrubs are the most popular hangouts in my garden. Favorites include cotoneaster, barberry, euonymus, dogwood, huckleberry, and viburnums of all kinds.
Depending on the types of birds you're trying to attract, you'll probably need to provide different types of food. For example, finches eat seeds, woodpeckers look for nuts, and hummingbirds want nectar. Just as birds eat different types of food, they also prefer different styles of feeders. Some are designed to attract a specific bird, such as the finch feeder and oriole feeder. Ground-feeding birds will come to a flat platform feeder, and there are feeders designed for smaller birds. For the greatest variety and number of birds, try a variety of feeding spots and feeders. Start with one or two feeders and increase the number as you learn which foods and feeders the birds prefer.
Entice with Water
Water is vital for birds throughout the year so a reliable source should be part of your backyard habitat. Ideally, the water source should be about 3 inches deep and 3 feet off the ground. Motion and sound will attract a bird's attention, and I've found that suspending a leaky bucket from a branch over a birdbath provides just enough sound to interest the most timid of my bird population.
If you spend a little time planning, you'll soon have birds flocking to your backyard! Then you can get out your field guide and your binoculars and join the 20 million other Americans who enjoy the rewarding hobby of bird-watching.
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