Friday, February 13, 2009

Create a Bird Garden: Plant Native!

Trees and shrubs: Crabapple, Dogwood, and Viburnum provide fruit, but don’t forget Conifers (evergreen plants including pines, spruces, firs, arborvitae, junipers, cedars, and yews.) that offer escape cover, nesting sites and winter shelter, but also sap, buds and seeds. Fall-fruiting plants include Mountain Ash, Cotoneasters and Buffalo Berries. Birds also enjoy Aspen, Willow and Maple buds and seeds, and Sumac (the low-growing kind doesn't cause a skin reaction!) Hardy to Zone 3-4.

Vines and flowers: Native honeysuckle and Trumpet vines call hummingbirds like nothing else, but so do the flowers of Bee Balm, Butterfly bush, Columbine, Daylily, Foxglove, Hollyhock, Lupine, Verbena and Yucca…as well as Coral bells, Geranium, Impatiens, and Petunias. Red flowers are especially powerful in this regard. Virginia creeper is as hardy as the dickens and attracts woodpeckers and flickers, grosbeaks and bluebirds, among others. Hardy to Zone 3 or 4.

Ornamental Grass: Many, many varieties of beautiful grasses left to go to seed on the edges of a garden not only look lovely, but provide both food and shelter to many varieties of bird; Juncos and Finches especially love grasses. Many colors and sizes from 10” to 15’ Hardy to Zone 3.

Dead Limbs or trees: As long as they are not a physical hazard in your garden, it is always a boon to birds to leave a dead tree where it stands. These ‘snags’ as they are called, offer homes to a variety of cavity-nesting birds.

Leaf litter: Surely you’ve seen sparrows, juncos and titmice hopping through and flipping leaves in search of worms and bugs. Why not leave at least a portion of your yard un-raked…for your feathered friends. Or rake the lawn, but use the leaves as a winter dressing and protection for the garden.

Water: Keep in mind how much energy a bird looses when it eats snow. Providing clean drinking water and a bath is perhaps most important in the winter time! Yes, birds must bath, even during winter.

Landscape Layering: Step-down larger trees and shrubs by facing them with smaller trees or shrubs, then smaller shrubs still and then by adding native perennials and flowers at the front edges. This stepped or layered affect (taller in back, smaller and lower in front: ‘stepping down’ from the edges of the yard into the interior), looks more natural, protects both plants and birds and makes for a more inviting yard and one that is easier to care for. Reduce turf; it saves water!

Summer Food: the first bruits that ripen include cherry, chokecherry, native honeysuckle, raspberry, serviceberry, blackberry, blueberry, mulberry, and elderberry.

Fall Food: include dogwoods, mountain ash, cotoneaster, and buffaloberry, all of which are an important source of fat-building food for migration or just getting ready for winter.

Winter food: or food that remains on the plant after it ripens (or perhaps must freeze and thaw several times before it is edible) include Chokecherry, Snowberry, Bittersweet, Sumac, High-bush Cranberry, Wahoo, Virginia creeper and Chinaberry. In most cases, it is possible to purchase several varieties of a favorite tree or shrub which fruit at different times of the year, thereby providing a year-round natural food supply.
Some links I found interesting:

All photos from Wikipedia


troutbirder said...

Very helpful. I have began last summer thinking about converting lawn to something more natural.

Owlman said...

Great resource!

Beverly said...

Thanks Owlman...good to 'see' you again!

Troutbirder, join the Turf Wars! LOL Yeah, lawns not only take need obscene amounts of water, just to grow so we can spend the weekend cutting it again...but lawns have singlehandedly ruined our natural landscape. Birds, bees and other critters are suffering for the lack of natural habitat. We can fix that! Stay tuned for more ideas to make your weekend easier and with more time to watch birds and enjoy your yard!

RuthieJ said...

Good advice Beverly. Are all those photos from your backyard? Sure looks nice.

Beverly said...

Oh yard doesn't look like that. Yet. While I do have many of the plants mentioned, most are young. It is my goal to tear up at least 10% of the turf and turn it back to native plantings. Corners will be rounded, I'll have more small trees and shrubs. All native; less care and less water!!!

By the time I'm old, I won't have to be spending much time at all working in the yard, and I can spend all the time watching the critters! Heh, heh, heh.

Nice to see you again, Ruthie