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Plant a Bird Garden

Do you like to listen to the warbling and scolding of birds as you enjoy a Saturday morning cup of coffee? How about watching them dart about the garden as they build their nests? You can add this dimension to your yard with a careful choice of landscaping plants and by offering food and shelter to your native birds.

One sought after garden visitor is the hummingbird. You can increase the popularity of your garden for this tiny bird by planting shrubs and trees with large, colorful blossoms -- purple, blue, pink, red or reddish-yellow will draw them. They are particularly fond of bright flowers with deep-throated tubular shapes. Some favorites are: Azaleas, Columbine, Clematis, Trumpet Vines, fuchsias, Honeysuckle, penstemon and Viburnum. If you're planting annuals, use Zinnias, Petunias, Salvias and Snapdragons. These bright colored flowers are hard for hummers to resist.

TIP: Plant the annuals in the same location each year since hummingbirds remember the location of good feeding spots and return tot hem.

Other birds look for berried plants and shrubs as a food source. Plant Crabapple, Cherry, Quince, Persimmon and other fruit trees to provide spring and summer food sources. Pyracantha, Cotoneaster and Honeysuckle are good additions to the bird garden. Berries that are enjoyed by backyard birds include Blueberries, Strawberries, Blackberries and Raspberries. If you are planting fruit trees to entice the bird population there will probably be little left for you to enjoy because they will begin feeding on it as soon as the fruit begins to ripen and shows color.

Although it is best to feed birds all year round, most people begin in the late fall. As the days grow shorter wild birds begin investigating the area for steady food supplies. Suet and seed are best for winter foods. Do not use suet in the spring and summer beause it coats the birs' feathers with grease. Normally, birds choose to feed on fruit and insects in the summer months when natural growth is abundant.

Birds are attracted to gardens with plenty of cover. It gives them refuge from predators such as hawks, crows and even smaller predatory birds that raid nests such as owls and blue jays. An ideal set up is a garden with established trees such as conifes and some deciduous tress that produce fruits and berries that are additional food source for the birds. They are also attracted to yards that have a water source such as a birdbth or fountain, mister or dripper.

Hang bird feeders in areas sheltered from the wind and close to trees for protection from predators. Remember to bell you cat if you want birds to hang around. Even better, train your cat to be an indoors cat -- it is the best way to protect birds and small native wildlife from your cat -- and protect your cat from their own predators such as dogs, coyotes, snakes and large hawks or eagles...and cars. A good location for a feeder is one that is easily seen from your wndow and accessible for refilling and cleaning.

Garden centers and nature retailers carry a wide variety of bird feeders that can serve the smallest songbirds to ground feeders such as mourning doves or even woodpeckers that like food provided on treetrunks.

To hang a feeder use a very thin galvanized wire and locate it at least 15 feet from any tree trunk or limb and at least four feet up from the ground. This will prevent squirrels from jumping from the tree or up from the ground. However, ground feeders are an obvious exception to these rules -- and squirrels get hungry, too. In fact, feeding the squirrels their favorite foods such as corn on the cob (dried) in their own favorite location will help keep them away from bird food. And squirrels can be delightful to watch as they scurry and scamper around your wildlife garden.

Hanging birdfeeders beyond the reach of marauding cats will also help protect your feathered friends.

Some species of birds require specialized feeders. The hummingbird is one such bird. Nectar feeders that hold a sugar solution require special care. The right recipe is needed -- some are now available commercially, or you can boil up a batch of your own. The feeders also need to be cleaned and refilled at least twice a week during hot summer days to keep bacteria and mold from contaminating the feeder and making the birds sick.

Creating habitat for birds is both enjoyable and a necessity. Loss of habitat is the number one cause of so many of our favorite birds losing the battle to thrive. Many of our songbirds in all regions of the US struggle to stay off the endangered species lists -- and conscientious habitat gardening is one personal way you can help them win the battle!

For more articles about BIRDS, BIRDS, BIRDS!

Bird Profiles for Young Natguralists
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red Breasted Nuthatch
Carolina House Wren
White Breasted Nuthatch
Tufted Titmouse
Prothonotary Warbler
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Bluebirds
Downey Woodpecker
Purple Martin