Attracting birds

Here are several resources for landscaping to attract birds:

How to Attract Birds has a nice summary, which amounts to providing food, water and shelter, resources which are often scarce in suburban areas. Providing variety in your plantings, especially providing year-round food, is especially useful. It dicusses the importance of planting native species, which native birds are already familiar with and adapted to, and organic gardening (using pesticides hurts the birds that eat insects).

When providing water, keep the water shallow - no more than 2-3" deep - as songbirds cannot swim, and will be very wary of entering deeper water. A rough and gradually sloping bottom, perhaps with some stones added for smaller birds to land on, will also help. A water source should be in a clearing, so that drinking and bathing birds can keep an eye out for predators. Depending on whether hawks or cats are a more likely threat will determine what sorts of plantings need to be near the water.

Cornell has several pages, including one on seven important plant groups:


Conifers:
Evergreen trees and shrubs such as pines, spruces, firs, arborvitae, and junipers. Provide excellent shelter and nest sites, as well as food (fruits and seeds).

Grasses and Legumes:
Provide cover for ground-nesting birds (if not mowed during the nesting season) and food (seeds and insects).

Nectar-producing Plants:
Attract hummingbirds (especially flowers with tubular red corollas) and orioles.

Summer-fruiting Plants:
Provide food during the nesting season. Various species of cherry, chokecherry, native honeysuckle, raspberry, serviceberry, blackberry, blueberry, mulberry, and elderberry.

Fall-fruiting Plants:
Important for both migratory birds building up fat reserves before migration and non-migratory birds that need to enter the winter season in good physical condition. Includes dogwoods, mountain ash, cotoneasters, and buffalo-berries.

Winter-persistent Plants:
Fruits remain attached to these plants long after they ripen in the fall, providing a winter food source for residents, as well as for early-returning migrants. Includes crabapple, snowberry, native bittersweet, sumacs, viburnums, American highbush cranberry, eastern wahoo, Virginia creeper, and winterberry (holly).

Nut and Acorn Plants:
Includes oaks, hickories, buckeyes, chestnuts, butternuts, walnuts, and hazels. Provide food and good nesting habitat.

Cornell's pages also include detailed information about some of the plant species and the birds they attract, as well as general landscaping tips, including: taking stock of what you already have; plant native species; provide variety, including sheltering and food-producing plants; leave dead limbs and piles of brush if you can.

Two more plant lists, one from the University of Illinois, which includes trees, and from WildBirds.com, a list of flowers, small trees, shrubs and vines.


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