Bird Gardening Ideas
Pest Control in the Alpaca Pen
Why Attract Birds?
Birds are a vital part of a healthy garden. They keep the pest population under control so you, the gardener, do not have to use pesticides. There are times when there is a "bug explosion", but keeping birds interested in returning to and staying in your garden is the best way to deal with the bugs.
In the photo on the right, the birds are always in the alpaca pen. There is a row of spruce trees on either side of the pen so they have a safe refuge in any event one of our cats decides to try to have a bird for lunch. Without the birds present, the insect population in the alpaca pen (and our garden) would be unbearable.
What types of birds are beneficial?
For those who live in the country, chickens are one of the best birds for bug control. Plus they aerate and fertilize your soil, which makes the garden healthier. A healthy garden is less susceptible to bug infestations.
If you cannot have or don't want chickens, there are other birds that will help your garden as well. Also note that if you do have chickens, other birds should also be encouraged to visit your garden as well.
The following is a list of birds we have in our area (Northeastern Alberta). This is not the entire list; just those that I have personally seen:
- Great Horned Owl
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird
- Downy Woodpecker
- Hairy Woodpecker
- Barn Swallow
- Blue Jay
- Red-winged Blackbird
- Barn Swallow
- Cedar Waxwing
Note: the above list covers birds that have been seen during various times of the year, but does not include any waterfowl that we also have residing in a pond on our property (pictured below).
Sundial Bird Feeder
What will they eat?
One of the most important things to do is to encourage the birds to stay in your garden year round (many do not migrate). If they have a source of food during the winter, they will also stay during the summer. Those that migrate will tend to come back to the place they were the previous year if they were fed, watered and housed.
A variety of fruits (cherries, strawberries, raspberries), acorns, grass seeds, flower seeds (annuals and perennials), tree seeds, insects, invertebrates (earthworms and caterpillars), flies, aphids, mosquitoes and larvae are just a few of the things you can provide as a food source. in the cases of the insects, it is not something most people have control over.
In addition to the natural foods available, it is sometimes necessary to supplement the diets of birds, especially during the cold winter months and early spring before the bugs and seeds are readily available.
Note: When attracting birds to your garden, avoid the use of herbicides and pesticides; the chemical residue will kill the birds.
Bird's Nest Under the Eaves
A Safe Refuge
Where will they live?
Providing shelter is another must for anyone who wishes for birds to stay in the garden. The shelter can be evergreens, leafy vines, or birdhouses.
In the picture to the right, the sparrows made a nest under the eaves of our house. I'm sure they did it just to tease the dogs, as their houses are below the spot the birds chose. Hopefully the babies don't fall out or the dogs will have a snack.
Providing shelter from the elements and any predators is also a must. My Virginia Creeper is a safe spot for the birds to escape to in any event of a cat or dog trying to catch them while they eat from the feeder or have a quick drink and bath. The vine also provides a diet of bugs, nectar and seeds (in the fall).
The trellis the vine is on also provides a good vantage point for the birds. From there they can watch out for the cats, plus watch the grass and garden beds for signs of their next meal.
A Natural Water Feature
What about water?
Providing a fresh, constant supply of water will help attract a variety of birds to your garden. Something as simple as a birdbath or as complex as a pond with streams, pools and waterfalls are beneficial in attracting avian life.
Birds prefer a shallow spot to drink and bathe, so even something as simple as a shallow pan will suffice. A pie plate does in a pinch if you do not yet have a commercial birdbath; it provides a rim to perch on and a place to drink and bathe. Another source of water is a tap dripping into a shallow container; it will provide fresh water and the dripping sound will attract the birds.
If you are fortunate like we are, a natural water source is a great way to enjoy both birds that make trees and land their homes as well as those that reside in or near the water.
How many different types of birds have you seen in your garden?
Attracting birds and encouraging them to stay in your garden comes with a huge list of advantages, as the capsules above state. The only real disadvantage I can see is your garden furniture and ornaments getting "painted".
The "paint" is washed off fairly easily and does its part in fertilizing the soil, so in actual fact (okay, my opinion) there aren't any disadvantages to having several species of birds in your garden.
An Illustrated Guide to Attracting Birds by Sunset Publishing Corp.