Welcome the birds – they bring color to the garden and keep unwanted pests at bay.
Wild birds have simple needs — food, water and shelter. Make provision for these in your garden and you’ll be surprised at just how many birds stop by for a visit. Trees and shrubs provide a place for our feathered friends to build nests and find food. You can also set up a bird table to supplement their diet and encourage unusual visitors. A bird bath is an easy way to provide the birds with water for drinking and bathing and can double as an attractive focal point in the garden.
Plants that produce berries are always a winner at attracting birds. Flowering plants attract insects that in turn attract the birds that feast on them. Nectar-loving birds enjoy plants which produce an abundance of nectar, like azaleas, trumpet vines, bougainvillea or lilacs. Select plants which flower at different times of the year. This keeps the birds coming back and also provides year-round color in your garden. Include some indigenous plants in your garden. Birds are attracted to them and they require much less water than exotic species, an important consideration for saving this precious resource.
Many gardeners are switching from harmful pesticides to more natural methods of pest control. Chemicals do control insects in the garden, but they also wipe out helpful garden guests and important eco-systems. Ladybirds help to control aphids, just as insect-eating birds will visit your garden for a delightful meal of grubs. Organic sprays are safe to use and will help to restore nature’s fine balance in your garden.
Food for birds
Choose a place away from the main traffic to the house or garage for your bird table. If you have dogs, find a place that is high off the ground or in a tree. Make sure you can see the table from a window in the house, so you can watch and even photograph the birds without disturbing them.
Bird feeders are available at your local nursery, or use your DIY skills to make a simple table. A small piece of wood nailed into an overhang branch of a big tree makes a fine platform for feeding wild birds. Kids love helping out in the garden. Let your youngsters make a trendy bird feeder. You’ll need a pinecone, some peanut butter and seeds. Roll the pinecone in peanut butter, then add a few more chunky bits into the cone and cover with bird seed. Hang the pinecone in a tree or place it on your bird table.
Commercial wild bird seed will attract seed-eaters to your table. You can also add some sunflower seeds for the bigger birds. Put old fruit, crushed maize, bread, hard cheese or dog food pellets on the table and watch how many different birds arrive for a free meal. Bonemeal and suet can also be introduced during the winter months. Your local green grocer may be willing to sell you overripe fruit at a reduced price. Mealworms are available at pet stores or nurseries and can attract some interesting meat-eaters. If you have a large tree in your garden, use thin wire to tie some pieces of fruit to the branches. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the birds discover this tasty treat.
Looking for plants for the birds?
Sunflowers provide masses of seeds and striking flowers in great colors from bright yellows to burnt toffee. They come in all sizes so are perfect for all gardens, or grow them in pots on a balcony. Sunflowers can attract finches, tits, sparrows and siskins.
In autumn, ivy flowers attract insects, which in turn provide food for robins and wrens. When the black berries appear in the middle of winter, they’re devoured by everything from thrushes, waxwings, starlings and jays, to finches and blackbirds. The leaves provide food for caterpillars of the holly blue butterfly, as well as nesting and roosting shelter for birds.
The branches of cotoneaster are laden with small red berries from autumn onwards. This plant is often the first to be stripped of its bounty, as the nutritious berries are extremely popular with garden birds such as blackbirds, thrushes and waxwings.