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For The Birds

House Finch

A client regaled me with tales of the local birds that visit her property, “We put a bit of seed out for them and all these various beings come and visit every day.”

During a mid-summer walk-through to see what needed to be spruced up we stopped at the small feeder swinging from a shepherd’s hook.

“Every day the most adorable family of house finches come by. It’s always the same group, 6 of them, and they chatter to themselves non-stop. They’re here for about 5 minutes and then they move along.”

“The Blue Jays are very insistent. Did you know they're excellent mimics and will even imitate a hawk to scare off other birds to have the feeder all to themselves?” she continued.

Blue Jay

“You get to know these animals. I used to just take them for granted, but they have a family order, and a hierarchy within their community."

"Once we saw a mated pair of Cardinals, and the male was actually feeding the female. She wasn’t an offspring; this was well before mating season. It was the sweetest thing to witness. Some of these birds mate for life.”

Sparrow perched on Star Magnolia

It’s not difficult to incorporate trees, shrubs and perennials to create a welcoming habitat that supports local song birds.

It’s been recently reported that the number of song birds are dwindling as is the number of insects. It’s not hard to correlate the two, don’t mean to bug you, but the simplest of fixes are available at your local nursery. Lots of plants give local song birds shelter and food.

Here’s a quick peek at some terrific plants that will keep these entertaining creatures healthy and happy.

Evergreens, such as Spruce (Picea), Holly (Ilex), and Cedars (Juniperus) provide great cover and food for nesting birds. Protecting them from the elements and predators, these trees and shrubs are great backdrop plants for the garden.

Plantings of varying heights and density give further protection and security to birds. Birds like to nest safely away from people and family pets. The pine cones of Evergreens provide lots of seeds for Nuthatches, Chickadees, and Finches as do the berries of the Holly.

Titmouse eats seeds from Verbascum

Fruiting shrubs that offer berries are essential. Some birds only eat insects

and berries and are not interested in seed feeders. Berries are loaded with vitamins and high in calories providing a rich addition to bird’s diet. Planting Viburnum, native blue-berries, Dogwood trees are a good place to start.

Sparrow on Viburnum

Viburnum shrubs are wonderful plants, with up to 150 different species to choose from, they are beautiful as they are useful to birds. They often have quite a flower display followed by berries for the birds.

Blue-berries and Raspberries are native to our area and very sustainable and easy to grow. These are great understory plants requiring minimal care once established. Sharing your crop of berries with the birds can be very rewarding.

The Audubon Society counts 40 different species of birds that eat the berries that follow flowers on Dogwood trees. Who can resist a Dogwood tree in full bloom in the late spring? Apparently neither the birds nor us.

Blue Jay swoops in for Sunflower seeds

Seed bearing perennials such as Sunflowers (Helianthus sp.), and Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) are definite necessities for the bird garden. As these flower heads go to seed Gold Finches and Blue Jays spend hours plucking out and eating the seeds. It’s amazing to watch the acrobatics of the birds as they hang up-side down to get at the seeds of these plants.

“We have such variety, Cat-Birds, Mocking Birds, Cow-Birds,” my client said, “It really is so fascinating to watch them. They come with their young and show them the garden and some stay all year and others re-visit our yard year after year.”

Almost on cue we watched a pair of bright yellow Gold Finches with their bounding flight soar over our heads singing their flying song. They were so attuned to one another, I almost expected them to reach out their wings as if to hold hands as they flew to the nearest pine tree.

Gold Finch visits Sunflower

By carefully choosing the right plants you can develop a year round bird sanctuary that sustains families of birds for years to come.

If you’d like to add a well place bird feeder or begin to assemble a bird garden, give us a call.

Together we can select plants to install in the fall so when spring comes round the birds will know it's all for them.

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