A gardener's relationship with birds
is one of mutual benefit. The gardener provides for a few of the
birds basic needs, and the birds help to keep down the insect
population while treating us to an unending source of entertainment.
Birds take their role as insect predator seriously. A single bird
will gulp down 500 to 1,000 insects in an afternoon.
Birds have four primary needs: food,
water, shelter, and a place to raise a family. As you'll see,
these needs are easily met.
Two types of seeds, white proso millet and black oil sunflower
seeds, will attract most common seed-eating birds. These two seeds
should be the mainstay in your feeders. To broaden the diversity
of birds visiting your feeders, add species-specific seeds such
as red proso millet, black- and gray-striped sunflower seeds,
Niger thistle (for goldfinches, pine siskins and purple finches),
milo and peanut kernels (for chickadees and white tufted titmice).
Beef suet helps birds maintain their
body heat in cold weather. Hang plastic mesh bags of suet or pinecones
dipped in melted suet from tree limbs. Woodpeckers are particularly
appreciative of this treat.
For more suggestions on feeding birds,
see Leigh Abernathy's article It's For The Birds. If you're interested in attracting hummingbirds
to your garden, see Naomi Mathew's article Creating a Hummingbird Haven.
An ideal water source for birds should be about three inches deep
and three feet off the ground. Motion and sound will grab a bird's
attention. You can create moving water by suspending a leaky container
from a branch over a birdbath. Fountains and waterfalls are favorite
hangouts for songbirds, and misters place in the plants near your
birdbath will attract a variety of feathered visitors.
Birds need shelter to protect them from the elements and allow
them to hide from predators. Dense, twiggy shrubs and evergreens
are the shelter of choice for most birds.
Different species of birds have different nesting requirements,
and you can find ready-made bird houses or build-it-yourself plans
for almost every species of bird. Choose birdhouses that are weather
resistant and have a pitched roof to shed rain. There should be
holes in the sides and bottom for ventilation and drainage. A
hinged or removable roof is a bonus for you because it makes cleaning
much easier. The birdhouse should be cleaned after each nesting
When hanging your birdhouse, position
the entrance hole away from prevailing winds.
Jackie Carroll is the editor of GardenGuides.com, a leading internet
destination for gardening information and ideas.
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