Monday, January 23, 2012

Feed the Birds

Recently, one of our Customers had a discussion with me about feeding the birds.  No, he was not envisioning the scene from Mary Poppins, the Disney Classic. He wanted to create a backyard that welcomed our feathered friends to visit him. 
In order to attract birds you have to create a hospitable environment.  Little birds especially like some dense brush or foliage to hide in or rest.  This gives them a little more security from birds of prey and other wildlife and it also provides shelter from the elements.  Evergreens are great to have in your backyard bird sanctuary because it provides winter interest to you and cover for the birds.  Plants like Chamaecyparis ‘Gold Mops’, Arbrovitae, Pines, Junipers and other evergreens have interesting foliage but are well loved by the homeowner and the birds.  Plants that produce very thick branching are also liked, such as spirea, viburnum, stephanandra and among many others.  If you have a big area you could also provide bird houses or hollowed out tree stumps.  Furthermore, plants also provide great nesting material for their homes.

As everyone knows, houseguests like to be fed and the birds are no exception.  Food is an important lure to keep our flighty friends within sight.  Food generally means seeds, but don’t overlook leaves and nectar, too.  This summer in our vegetable garden I thought I had the world’s biggest slug devouring my Swiss chard bright lights, but we had no visible signs except for the holes in the leaves.  Every morning I would go out and look feverishly for the slime trails that my unwelcomed guests should have left behind.  One morning, I came in exceptionally early and spied two pairs of Gold finches having Swiss chard for breakfast and then we noticed that they came back for lunch, too.  I am sure they probably would have liked a little spinach, also.  Nectar plants are mainly for our Hummingbird friends. 

Nectar plants (include but not limited too)
Monarda Pink Delight
Bee Balm, Monarda (perennial)
Butterfly Weed (perennial)
Cardinal Flowers (perennial)
Cardinal Vine (annual)
Fuschia (annual)
Hoya (tropical)
Impatiens (annual)
Penstemon digitalis (perennial)
Phlox (perennial)
Salvia (annual varieties)
Silver Lace Vine (perennial)
Trumpet Vine (perennial)

Leaves for food (primarily our finches in this area)
Swiss Chard Bright Lights
Maple flower buds - Acer
Swiss chard 
American bittersweet – Celestris scandens
Big Blue Stem – Andropogon gerardii
Black Eyed Susan - Rudbeckia
Blackberry - Rubus
Blazing Star - Liatris
Blueberry – Vaccinium
Callicarpa – Beautyberry
Chokeberry - Aronia arbutifolia
Chokecherry – Prunus virginiana
Currants – Ribes
Dogwoods gray and red - Cornus
Elderberry - Sambucus
Gooseberry – Ribes
Grapes – Vitis
Hackberry – Celtis occidentalis
Hawthorn – Crataegus
Holly – Ilex
Joe Pie Weed - Eupatorium
Juniper – Juniperus
Little Blue Stem – Schizachyrium scoparium
Oaks - Quercus
Purple Cone Flowers - Echinacea
Rasberry - Rubus
Serviceberry – Amalanchier
Strawberry wild and hybrid - Fragaria
Sumac – Rhus
Sunflower -Helianthus
Tickseed - Coreopsis
Virginia Creeper – Parthenocissus quiquefolia
Winterberry – Ilex

Serviceberry perfect for the Robins

Not only do we need to provide food and shelter, water is a critical component to keeping our feathered friends visiting our backyards.   I know in winter it is difficult to do this but you can get heated bird baths.   You can find these locally at Wild Birds Unlimited in Glenview IL ( ).

So, this spring feed the birds and they will provide hours of entertainment while they visit your backyard.  The previous lists are a great place to start but you are not limited to these plants.  If you have noticed your birds feeding on other types of plants, please let us know our Facebook page:  National wildlife federation where you can certify your backyard as a National wildlife habitat

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