In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
June, 2012
Regional Report

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Wild turkeys visit the bird feeding station to feast on seed that has fallen to the ground.

Don't Forget the Birds in Summer

While we're busy gardening in the heat of summer, it's easy to forgot about the friendly wildlife that finds habitat in and around our landscapes. And though we might think that natural food sources are abundant at this time of year, wild birds still will benefit from a source of food, water, and shelter to rear their young.

I'm fortunate to have a wide variety of colorful birds visit the garden. Some, like the robins, are always present in search of worms and yes, they partake of some strawberries and Josta berries, too. If they get too aggressive in the fruit garden, I'll get out the bird netting and exclude them from a feeding frenzy.

Sometimes the unexpected will happen. What a surprise when a turkey hen showed up near the bird feeders with her four chicks. They, too, were in search for food. The birdseed that had been dispersed from the feeders by finicky eaters and landed on the ground is now a daily treat for my family of turkeys. Birdseed won't go to waste here.

A Bullock's oriole has set up home in the bur oak tree next to the garden shed. This brightly colored bird has a beautiful melodic, whistling song that is welcome in the morning and evening hours. When the leaves fall to the ground this autumn, the distinctive pouch-like nest can be spotted dangling from a branch.

Wild birds need a variety of foods depending on the season. In spring and summer, many birds will feed on caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles, and other insect pests that invade the yard and garden. Later, berries and other fruits will be a source of carbohydrates and fats to store up energy for the fall and winter.

With this season's heat and drought, don't forget about providing a source of fresh water for drinking and bathing. If you have the space and resources, you can create a pond in your landscape. Short of that, a sturdy birdbath can be placed in the garden. Large plastic drainage saucers also work well as watering holes.

The water should be a few inches deep so the birds can bathe. A decorative rock or stump set in a ground level birdbath is recommended as it allows the birds to drink and gives them a better view of approaching predators. Keep the water clean by changing it daily and scrub the bowl once a week to prevent bacteria and scum from building up. Birds are attracted to running water, so you can entice them with a dripping hose over the birdbath or recirculating pump.

If you provide water and keep your bird feeding stations supplied with fresh birdseed to supplement natural food sources, you will be surprised at the bird feeding activity occurring in the morning and early evening hours. Your garden will have fewer pest problems, too.


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