Gardening for Birds

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Attracting birds to your garden is a fairly simple task.  If you have a good mix of trees, shrubs and flowers, you’re bound to attract some.  If you’ve setup a feeding station with supplemental food and a bird bath, expect to attract numerous species over the course of a year.

Up north, some of the best bird viewing happens in winter.  We have 5 feeders right outside our kitchen window where we can relax in the comfy leather chair next to the woodstove, and watch the birds and squirrels frolicking in the snow.

Our winters bring an assortment of cardinals, blue jays, fox sparrows, black cap chickadees, dark-eyed juncos, cowbirds, various types of woodpeckers, crows, and at dawn and dusk, often a bunny or two, to the feeders.  We’ve even had the occasional visit in late winter from some wild turkeys.

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Spring and Summer are even more varied with finches, bluebirds, robins, starlings, red-wing blackbirds, wrens, swallows and grosbeaks added to the mix.  Every spring we seem to end up with a family of robins nesting somewhere near the house.

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Here are 10 things you can do to entice birds to your property:

1)      Mulching your flower or mixed borders with leaf mold (leaves left to decompose for at least a year – full of nutrients for your soil and yummy bugs for the birds).

2)      Mow your lawn at differing lengths.  Blackbirds, robins and starlings, for instance, prefer shorter grass for easier access to worms and grubs.  Insect and seed eaters such as sparrows and finches, prefer longer grass (where the clover and dandelions are allowed to flourish).

3)      Plant a variety of shrubs and trees—planting a hedge is even better—to provide both shelter for birds, as well as to attract insects to the leafy vegetation.

4)      Cover any walls and fences with climbers (clematis, roses, climbing hydrangea, ivy, etc.).

5)      Make a log pile – this will attract countless insects, as well as provide shelter for small animals and reptiles.

6)      Put up bird houses of various sizes and in various locations to provide shelter (be sure to clean out the old nests in late fall in preparation for new spring inhabitants).

7)      Dig a pond and/or have bird baths scattered throughout the garden.

8)      Grow of variety of caterpillar food-plants such as apple, plum and cherry trees, clematis, foxglove, honeysuckle, hops, valerian, mullein, to name a few.  Wild plants such as nettles, Bird’s-foot-trefoil, garlic mustard and thistles also provide much needed food.

9)      Provide supplementary food year-round.

10)   Avoid using any pesticides or herbicides.

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