Friends of a Feather

While working at Wellfield Botanic Gardens, we often hear and see different varieties of native birds flying by, including cardinals, egrets, herons, blue jays and chickadees, just to name a few. Birds can be pretty to look at and fun to watch, but why would you want them in your garden? Birds can be essential to a functioning garden. They serve as great pollinators and can help reduce the amount of unwanted insects and rodents in your garden. They can serve as a natural pest control by eating insects, including their larvae, which can control the amount of insects in your garden. Birds are also able to help control potentially harmful rodents from your garden. Bigger, predatory birds such as eagles, falcons and hawks can be a useful more environmentally friendly way to get rid of rodents.

Now that we know some reasons why we would want to attract birds to our gardens, how do we go about enticing them to a garden? Bird baths are not always just a decorative piece in a garden; they can play an essential role in attracting a variety of avian species. Changing water often in the summer can help prevent the spread of diseases among birds. Also, consider installing a heated bird bath so the water does not freeze in the winter. 

Another way to entice birds to your yard is by having available shelter. Usually, when we have a dead or decaying tree, the first instinct is to remove it. However, a lot of birds, such as woodpeckers, chickadees and titmouse, rely on this type of environment for nest-cavities. If a decaying tree is not in an area where it could affect your house or property negatively, then it can be left to provide shelter for all sorts of wildlife, not just birds!

An obvious and somewhat easy way to get birds to come to your garden is by putting out bird seed! Depending on what varieties of birds you would like to see and hear, different types of seed can be used to your benefit. For instance:

  • Safflower seeds are favored by cardinals and some chickadees, and sparrows and doves consume this variety as well.
  • White millet is enjoyed by a variety of birds that eat typically off the ground level including quails, sparrows, doves, juncos and cardinals. 
  • Nyjer is a small seed that is enjoyed by a variety of finches.
  • Sunflower seeds are a favorite among many birds including finches, chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals and some woodpeckers. 

Buying seed and containers to hold and display the seed can get a bit expensive. So, if you want to attract birds to your garden in a more economical way there is one easy thing to do. At Wellfield Botanic Gardens, we leave coneflowers over the winter so that birds can eat the seeds. A lot of people tend to cut back perennials in the fall, however, they can be left alone in your yard/garden. This will provide many species of birds with food for the winter when sources are limited. The same can be done with a variety of plants including sunflowers, asters, daisies, black-eyed Susans and staghorn sumacs. If you would like an easy way to see more birds, come to Wellfield and enjoy our monthly bird walks on the first Sunday of every month! Mark your calendars, because on February 18th we will be participating in The Great Backyard Bird Count! When you cannot make it to the Gardens, try and explore outside in your yard and think of ways to make it more inviting to wildlife of all kinds. 

Ariana Guerrero
Lead Horticulturist

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