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Landscaping Food Sources Suitable for Birds

To create a landscape that provides birds with a guaranteed, year-round food supply, you need to plant an assortment of plant species that provides seeds, berries, nuts, or other food throughout the year. Planting a diverse selection helps ensure that a variety of food sources is always available. Choose different plantings that produce food throughout each of the four seasons.

Deciduous plantings, plants whose leaves drop off in winter, generally bear the most fruit, nuts, and seeds for wildlife. In addition, they offer shady, leafy nesting sites in the spring and summer.

Evergreens, which bear leaves throughout the year, offer a good source of berries and seed-filled cones. They also offer year-round shelter, protection, and breeding sites.

Take an inventory of what is already growing in your yard. Draw a rough map of your property. Make notes about what plants are growing in your yard. Use a field guide or garden book to identify plants you're not familiar with. Also note the sun exposure and shade throughout the day. Then use a plant guide to determine which plants your yard has that are good providers, and which are not.

SparrowYou may already have a number of trees, flowers, and shrubs attractive to various species of birds. Plan to supplement with native fruiting trees, shrubs, and vines. Reduce the area occupied by the lawn. Wide expanses of turf grass are sterile habitats attracting less desirable"generalist" species, such as feral pigeons, starlings, cowbirds, and grackles, all of which compete with our native songbirds for food and nesting spots.

You will want to determine when your plants are providing food for birds, for example, nuts and acorns in winter, flowers and seeds in the summer. You may want to remove some plants that do not provide food in order to make room for ones that do. Make separate lists for each season.

Begin with what your yard provides, and add to it plants you can grow that will provide more food that season. Concentrate on adding plants that provide food during seasons when nothing much else is available.

Transforming your yard into a haven for birds and butterflies overnight is an easy way to become totally frustrated and give up. Make gradual changes over the course of several planting seasons. Use your notes as a guide. Identify 1 — 2 areas to concentrate on for the year 1. For example, if you have a just 1 tree in your front yard, consider adding more trees and under planting with berry-producing shrubs and ground covers.

Plan to add plants gradually as your budget and time allow. Buy only as many plants as you can care for at one time. Newly added plants take more water and care than older, established ones. Proper soil preparation, watering, and mulching are all essential to getting new plants off to a good start.

Providing Safe Food

Organic gardening is an essential ingredient in any landscape that throws out the welcome mat for birds. Organic gardens naturally attract beneficial insects and other organisms that birds enjoy. Many insects that thrive in organic gardens are beneficial not only for attracting more birds, but these beneficial insects also eat other harmful insects, and thus, help keep insect populations in balance.

Birds naturally help control many garden pests such as gnats and mosquitos. Instead of waging war against pests and diseases with an arsenal of toxic chemicals, organic gardening helps make the entire garden a healthy balance.

A working knowledge of organic gardening is important to a gardener intent on attracting birds and butterflies. Avoid pesticides in your yard. Many insecticides remove all insects, which serve as the prey base for many birds. A poisoned insect will in turn poison the bird. Using plants native to your area reduces the need for pesticide use since the native plants are resistant to local pests and diseases, plus these native plants usually require less watering.

Mockingbirds, warblers, vireos, wrens, and many others relish insect pests. Providing splashes of color in different areas of the garden helps attract birds. Birds and butterflies are highly visual and are attracted by brightly colored flowers and fruit. Hummingbirds are especially fond of red and orange tubular flowers. Red flowers will attract birds during migration. Once they spot your brightly colored landscape plants, they are more likely to linger longer and maybe even take up residence.

Use native grasses as accent plants and in wildlife meadow patches. Many birds eat seeds of native grasses. Consider letting your garden go to seed rather than dead-heading all the flowers and removing spent plants. Doing so provides a wealth of nutritious food for many species of seed-eating birds. To find out which plants grow best in your area and will best fill your specific needs, consult a local gardening book, or nursery.

Plants native to your region are excellent for birds, because the birds are familiar with these plants as acceptable food sources, shelter, and nesting sites. Native fruits and berries are nutritious, and they ripen on a schedule that coincides with natural needs at nesting and migration times, or during winter months. They are also perfectly sized for birds to eat, unlike some improved varieties or exotic plants whose fruits are unpalatable or too big.

Organic gardening and bird attraction go hand-in-hand.