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With the number of new housing developments and new folks to this area, it is time to do a series on making the backyard and wooded areas attractive to wildlife. The first couple of articles will look at ways to invite birds to your area.
Birds are good neighbors. Their songs, colors, and lively activities add much to the joys of suburban or near-suburban living. They also help control insects that attack flowers, lawns, gardens and people. You know about manmade bird attractors—feeders, birdbaths, birdhouses, nesting shelves and the like. Let’s consider some natural attractors—trees, shrubs and vines—you can grow to invite birds to your home and garden.
Plantings can beautify your land as well as attract birds. Birds often feed on berries, and many of their favorites are bright hued and decorative. Hedges and other dense shrubbery provide shelter and fit handsomely in the background scene. Trees for nesting and singing offer shade and beauty to the householder. Sunflowers and other colorful annuals are seed producers. A small wildlife pool is an attractive addition.
Meet the birds’ needs
Birds have simple needs. They look for places to feed, sing, court, nest, rest and hide. As you do your landscaping, you can provide these places with mixtures of trees, shrubs, vines, and other plants. Even in small yards, the right choice of plantings can meet many of these needs. They also need a water source.
Mix and blend plants
Birds like variety. Remember this when deciding what plants to use in your conservation-planned landscaping. Create a varied pattern with an intermingling of species, sizes and shapes.
Give birds a choice of places for their activities, from the crowns of tall trees down to low-growing flowers and grasses. Give them a choice of food sources—seeds, nuts, fruits, berries and flower nectar. Many songbirds combine these plant foods with animal foods like insects, worms, and spiders.
Choose plants of wildlife value
By knowing the wildlife value of plants you now have, you can plan additional plantings that will bring a diversity of plant forms, food producers and shelter plants that would otherwise be missing.
Many common shade trees and landscape shrubs, for example, yield little food for birds. Autumn-olive, cherry, or good fruit-bearing shrubs are helpful additions. Yards and grounds that have only deciduous trees and shrubs can be improved by adding junipers, cedars, yews, and other evergreens that provide winter shelter for birds.
Create a landscape design
You have endless choices of combinations to consider in creating a conservation landscape design—hardwoods and conifers, vines, shrubs and trees, grasses, flowers and even weeds.
If your yard is small, you may be limited to single specimens of different plants. With much larger grounds, you can use hedges, clumps, food plots and other massed plantings.
If you have a wooded area, a small clearing within it can create more edges for birds and lend variety to the landscape. Your choice in species and their arrangement and placing will depend on your space.
Be sure your landscaping allows you to see the birds. Put plants where they can be seen from a window, patio or terrace. For best results, choose the kinds of plants reported to have high bird use. Careful attention to periods of bloom and the availability of choice foods makes it possible to have a succession of floral displays and bird foods throughout the year.
Next week, different ways of providing for the birds will be explored.
Send your gardening questions or comments to: Brunswick County Master Gardener Column, P.O. Box 109, Bolivia, NC 28422, or call 253-2610. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope if requesting information or a reply. Answers may be printed in this column.