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February 15, 2012

Bird Gardens – Flowers and Plants to Attract Wildlife

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Once you have gained the basics of wildlife gardening, it’s easy to attract beautiful birds to your garden. All types of wildlife are in search of three primary things: food, water, and shelter. Each of these requirements can be acquired through the proper flowers and plants. Gardeners who create a diversified landscape can see a large rise in the number of bird species seen throughout the year.

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Bird gardens can also add beauty to the landscape and a place for bird watchers to observe and learn. Gardening for Specific Birds Almost every backyard bird watcher has one species that is their favorite to spot but refuses to visit their garden. There are several ways to attract specific species of birds to your backyard. Rare birds are more eye-catching and often most colorful, unusual, and lyrical. Some desirable backyard bird species include:

  • American Goldfinch

  • Black-Capped Chickadee

  • Eastern Bluebird

  • Gray Catbird

  • Northern Cardinal

  • Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

  • Scarlet TanagerTree Swallow

  • White-Breasted Nuthatch

Some of these species of birds are easy to attract while others are a challenge. To encourage the arrival of your specific bird, first check the natural habitat of that species. Certain species of birds may not be appropriate for your geographical area or habitat. Offer the birds quality food by learning their favorite food sources. Provide adequate housing, such as birdhouses, to allow for nesting and safety or incorporate nesting ledges or natural shelters, such as hollow trees or thickets, into your landscape design.

American Goldfinch

What Flowers and Plants Are Birds Attracted to?

Choosing which flowers, plants, and trees are best for your garden depends on several factors. Gardeners should plant according to the time of the year that they provide seed, fruit, or flower. Fruiting plants are generally divided into three time periods: late spring to mid-summer, late summer to fall, and winter to early spring. Nesting time occurs between late spring and mid-summer. To supplement the birds’ diet to rear their young, plant red buckeye, birch, honeysuckle, or bee balm. A large majority of plants produce seeds or fruit in the late summer to fall. Plant selections to consider for this time period include dogwood, elderberry, cardinal flower, bittersweet, and sunflowers. When the food supply is limited during the winter to early spring, choose plants that will provide a steady food supply. Plants that have persistent fruit include crabapple, hawthorn, firethorn, chokeberry, and shrub rose.

Bird Feeders and Birdhouses

Gardeners should remember that the species of birds drawn to their garden is often dependent on the type of food provided, as well as the placement of the feeder. Consider placing a variety of food sources and different feeders around the landscape to accommodate all needs. Food should be set out at the same time of day from spring, summer, fall, and winter. Birdhouses play an important role in the conservation of birds in populated suburban locations where minimal nesting areas are available. Many species of birds require various behavioral and physical requirements so there is no one-size-fits-all birdhouse. The type of birds likely to nest in your yard is largely determined by the habitat.

Bird Watching Basics

Bird watching is an interesting and inexpensive past-time for families and individuals of all ages. Gardeners can reserve an area in their backyard just for bird feeders and enjoy watching the visiting birds throughout the year. Bird watching can also be a great learning experience as beginners attempt to identify new and unusual species.

The following bird watching tips for beginners can help you get started:

  • Bird Feeders

  • Backyard Bird Feeding

  • Building a Birdhouse

  • Look, listen and move very carefully when attempting to watch birds close up.

  • Keep conversation to a minimum and avoid making abrupt movements so as to not scare away the birds.

  • Watch birds for signs of alarm, such as a freeze in posture, rising of the wings or a cocked head. Stop moving until the bird has returned to a calm state.

  • Birds require water, especially in the winter when streams and ponds are frozen.

  • Listen for the calls or songs, as well as bill movements, of the bird to help identify the species.

Learn the most you can about bird watching, the various species commonly found in your area, and when to look for them. Some species of birds are most at certain times of the day. In order to make the most of your bird watching, know the times of day your favorite species are out. Many species of birds can be spotted in the first several hours after dawn and briefly before sunset, such as songbirds. For many species, the prime bird-watching hours are just after dawn, while others are most visible at mid-day.

Landscaping for Birds

Proper landscaping can have many advantages for birds and for the bird watcher. Sufficient bird gardens can nearly double the number of bird species that use your property. Begin by building a plan around your needs and the needs of the species you wish to attract. Develop a planting map that includes a combination of trees, flowers and shrubs that will attract a variety of bird species. For a successful bird garden, you must provide wildlife with unique food requirements, water, shelter, diversity, and protection.

Interested in more? Check out our guide to attracting hummingbirds

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