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Seven Easy Steps to Attract Wild Birds
Did you get an expensive, attractive bird feeder for Christmas? No doubt you excitedly filled it with birdseed and waited for flocks of new birds to visit their new restaurant.
Little or no activity? The reason may be that it takes more than a feeder to turn a typical backyard into a bird haven, regardless of the season. Plants that provide suitable places for nesting and cover from weather and predators combined with a year-round source of fresh water are essential elements.
A combination of just 7 ingredients will greatly increase your chances of attracting lots of feathered friends to your yard.
Evergreens, primarily conifers, are essential for providing dense shelter and well-hidden nesting sites, as well as food from their seed-producing cones. There are evergreens suitable for every size space and type of growing conditions. Be sure you carefully choose a plant that won't grow too tall or spread beyond the desired area.
Deciduous shrubs and trees, plants that lose their leaves in autumn, are the second most important element to a bird-friendly landscape. Many produce berries for food as well as flowers in the spring and beautiful fall color. Some bird species will use crotches, where branches meet, for nesting in the spring.
Ornamental grasses are a real treat for birds as they provide both seeds and shelter. Another benefit is the only annual maintenance needed is a trim back in the spring. Again, select carefully, as some grasses seed prolifically and should be avoided or used carefully.
Perennials provide nectar and seed sources for your backyard birds. Purple coneflowers and black-eyes Susans supply both. Resist the tendency to cut the plants back in the fall. It's better to leave the seed heads on the plants so the birds can get to the food when they need it most - in winter. The best perennial gardens have plants that bloom at staggered times so you have a continuous supply of flowers. Good combinations include wood geraniums and columbine for spring, bee balm and phlox for mid-season and asters and sedums for August and beyond. Of course, the combinations are endless, so choose plants that are native to your area and work within your landscape plan.
Annuals bloom all summer long and some, like the butterfly bush and trumpet vine, are sought after nectar sources for hummingbirds and butterflies. Even common, inexpensive plants like zinnias, sunflowers and petunias are welcome additions to a birdscaped garden.
Birdbaths are essential, since all bird species need water for drinking and bathing. Water that moves and splashes in fountains or ponds will draw more birds because of the sound, but a simple shallow dish or birdbath can be just as effective.
Birdhouses and feeders will, of course, attract even more bird varieties. House wrens are about the only bird that will nest in a swinging birdhouse, so most should be post or tree mounted. Feeders should offer a variety of food, including seed, suet and sugar water, so consider having several different types.
Birdscaping isn't rocket science, but it does take a bit of research and planning to select trees, shrubs and flowers that serve your birds best. Your efforts will be rewarded with not only the enjoyment of watching your favorite feathered friends but a chance to snap those great bird photos you've been dreaming of.