I treated myself to a special gardening issue of Birds & Blooms magazine called Gardening for Birds & Butterflies. I didn't quite realize how much of a treat it was until I sat in my swing with my coffee on the first warm, sunny morning this spring.
While sipping, I noticed how much bird song I could hear between cars passing our house which sits on a busy rural highway. I began recalling some of the gardening possibilities I read about the night before that would attract more birds to our yard and help cover the sounds of the road.
As the sun rose higher over the hill across the road, my trees just buzzed with several varieties of birds as excited as I was with the beautiful day. A spectacular tiny specimen landed on a branch just in front of my eyes, then quickly flew off to quarrel at some encroaching robins. I thought I could identify this thumb-sized beauty, but ran in to grab my new magazine which features a field guide to fifty birds and butterflies.
I flipped the guide open and found the picture and description for which I was looking. Graciously the little wing-wonder landed just a bit closer so I could get a better look. Sure enough, my flighty friend was a particularly fine example of a black-capped chickadee ( Poecile atricapillus).
While I sat on my porch, I realized I could see a lot of bird activity at the edges of my yard, but there is not much to attract them to the middle where I can see them from the swing. Bird feeders placed strategically will help attract more birds, but I want a lasting solution (and more care-free says the lazy gardener). My magazine suggests flower varieties that will help. Most of them are flowers I like and have in small quantities in a border garden:
Blazing Star ( Liatris spicata ), Coral Bells ( Heuchera sanguinea ), Lavender ( Lavandula angustafolia ), Purple Coneflower ( Echinacea purpura ), Salvia ( Salvia pratensis ), Sedum ( Sedum species ), and Yarrow ( Achillea millefolium ).
Other perennials to add in the expansion of food sources to make my yard more attractive to birds include:
Agastache ( Agastache species ), Black-eyed Susan ( Rudbeckia species ), Butterfly weed ( Asclepias tuberosa ), Coreopsis ( Coreopsis species ), Germander ( Teucrium chamadrys ), Goldenrod ( Solidago species ), and Penstemon ( Penstemon species ).
Some of my favorite annuals also catch the eye of passing bird varieties:
All of these common perennials and annuals are readily available from garden centers as plants and seeds.
Developing Your Own Bird Buffet
If your gardening options are limited to a front stoop, small patio, or balcony, you can mix your bird treats to attract them to your small space. Hang a bird feeder from the porch overhang or a shepherd's crook (available from garden centers). Pick some of your favorite annuals and perennials to put in pots. A small, shallow terracotta dish where your new winged friends can get a drink of fresh water and a bath completes you miniature bird sanctuary.
If you have a bit more space there are several things you can do to attract and keep birds coming to your yard. Incorporate some of these:
Evergreens provide dense shelter and hidden nesting sites.
Deciduous shrubs and trees produce flowers and berries for food.
Ornamental grasses provide both seeds and shelter.
Perennials provide nectar and seed sources.
Annuals bloom all summer long and are great sources of nectar and seeds.
Birdbaths are essential since birds need fresh water for drinking and bathing.
Birdhouses and feeders attract birds and keep them coming to your yard through-out the seasons.
You can develop as much space as you are willing to give to the birds. Don't forget to get a field guide so you can identify the many varieties you will have in your yard if you provide the basics for them: shelter, nesting spots, food, and water.
Then God said, "...let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens." ...God created...every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:20 & 21
Next week we will look at attracting the helicopters of the bird world -- hummingbirds.