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Beyond Birdfeeders

gold finch pair, landscape for birds

A new landscape design starts with a decision. Are you thumbs up or thumbs down for birds? It is a delight to see the chittering goldfinch grace your yard with their presence, but not so wonderful to have thousands of black birds rooting over your patio, so you can love and hate birds at the same time. Your landscape design can influence the type of birds you want, the landscape impression you are trying to make, and the uniqueness of the species that might visit your site.

Birds can damage a landscape. They eat ripe garden fruits and vegetables. They eat invasive plant seed and deposit them throughout the garden, adding instant fertilizer encapsulation in the process. When living too closely to humans, they might carry disease. In large groups, they can deposit copious amounts of droppings. Yuck!

On the other hand, they can fly and they are beautiful. Some are brightly colored. They eat harmful insects. They provide entertainment through activity and song. Anyone living in Guam, especially after the brown tree snake arrived, will tell you how precious they are. Without birds, a lot of native trees would lose their seed distribution. In the balance of things, birds belong outdoors.

There are ways to encourage birds to choose your area for their home. Bird feeders are okay, but they tend to bring mobs of a limited number of species at best, or squirrels at worst! They also leave unattractive seed litter on the ground below. It is much better to provide a diverse, inviting habitat. Go beyond birdfeeders. Your natural vegetation can provide a bounteous food supply. Save the one hundred dollars you would spend on a bird feeder, along with constant trips to the grocery for birdseed, and create a natural and welcoming home for birds.

Step one—Get rid of your cats.

Step two—Provide thickets of thick shrubbery for nesting.

Step three—Provide water for bathing and drinking (for the birds, not you!).

Step four—Plant ornamental and native grasses with inviting seed heads.

Step six—Provide a mix of plants that bloom and fruit at different times of the year.

Step seven—Provide a diverse mix of natives, annual flowers, fruiting shrubs, herbs, perennials with long, tubular flowers, and trees with nuts and nesting places.

This landscape combination of so many different plants can result in a messy aesthetic. Provide some control of the visual clutter with open spaces of turf, clearly defined edging for plant beds, clean circulation paths, and borders of low evergreens. Consolidate masses of different species to create large sweeps of color and structure. Maintain a nice balance of strong lines and facer plants for loose brush to keep the landscape from becoming a bit too seedy, in every sense of the word.

Control of invasive plants and insects is also surprisingly helpful in encouraging the right sorts of wildlife. Birds seem to know the difference between native volunteers and weeds. The prettier the bird, the more particular they are about good wildlife habitat design. Provide a refined sanctuary both you and the birds will love.

Landscape for Birds