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Landscaping for Birds
Food and cover are essential for the survival of all species. Loss of suitable nesting sites is a major factor in the decline of some bird species. In the wild, many species nest in cavities of dead trees. With the loss of hedgerows in some parts of the country and the removal of dead trees in towns, natural nesting sites are often limited. Also, some highly competitive, non-native species of birds have taken over some of the existing nesting sites once occupied by native birds.

Bird species are extremely variable in their habits. Some like deeply wooded areas; others prefer open fields and meadows. Many species are year-round residents, while others such as the cedar waxwing appear only for a few days a year during migration. Other species such as sparrows, blue jays, cardinals, robins, juncos, and chickadees are highly adaptable and found in many environments.

Many people are not aware of the value of dead, dying, and hollow trees, as well as logs on the ground, for birds and other wildlife. Dead trees provide homes to more than 400 species of birds, mammals, and amphibians. Fish, plants, and fungi also benefit from dead and dying trees. Consider leaving standing dead and dying trees in your yard unless they pose a human safety or property hazard, and use old logs and stumps in gardens and landscaping.

Plant species for birds

Below are some plant species to consider for wildlife habitat. Check with a local nursery on plants suitable for your area. Some of these plants, while suited for wildlife, may have characteristics such as shallow roots or weak limbs that make them inappropriate for small urban properties--or they may not be winter hardy in all locations. Birds eat any flower seed, depending on the kind of bird and seed.

Trees for birds:

* American beech (Fagus grandifolia)

* American holly (Ilex opaca)

* Balsam fir (Abies balsamea)

* Black cherry (Prunus serotina)

* Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica)

* Crabapple (Malus spp.)

* Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

* Hawthorns (Crataegus spp.)

* Hickories (Carya spp.)

* Live oak (Quercus virginiana)

* Oaks (Quercus spp.)

* Red mulberry (Morus rubra)

Shrubs for birds:

* Common juniper (Juniperus communis)

* Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium spp.)

* Hollies--both evergreen and deciduous species (Ilex spp.)

* Pyracantha (Pyracantha spp.)

* Red-osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera)

* Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)

* Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

* Sumacs (Rhus spp.)

* Viburnums (Viburnum spp.)

* Wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera)

* Vines for birds:

* American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens)

* Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens and related spp.)

* Strawberry (Fragaria spp.)

* Trumpet creeper or vine (Campis radicans)

* Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

* Wild grape (Vitis spp.)

Nectar plants for hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees:

* Aster (Aster spp.)

* Azalea (Rhododendron spp.)

* Bee balm (Monarda spp.)

* Butterfly bush (Buddleia alternifolia)

* Butterfly weed and other milkweeds (Asclepias spp.)

* Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

* Clover and other legumes

* Columbine (Aquilegia spp.)

* Coneflower (Echinacea spp.)

* Delphinium (Delphinium spp.)

* Fuchsia (Fuchsia spp.)

* Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.)

* Jewel weed (Impatiens capensis or I. pallida)

* Lobelia (Lobelia spp.)

* Lupine (Lupinus spp.)

* Penstemon (Penstemon spp.)

* Phlox (Phlox spp.)

* Salvia (Salvia spp.)

* Trumpet creeper or vine (Campis radicans)

* Weigela (Weigela spp.)

* Zinnia (Zinnia spp.)

Additional food and shelter for birds

Few yards will be able to supply sufficient food or shelter for a variety of birds all year long. However, you can improve shelter and food supplies by building or purchasing feeders and houses, and by setting out certain foods.

All bird species have specific nesting requirements. Because of these requirements, your yard may not accommodate certain species. For instance, Eastern bluebirds prefer nesting sites that border open fields or lawns with a tree or fence post nearby to provide feeding perches. Chickadees prefer to nest in brushy wooded areas.

Before setting out nesting houses, find out which species are common in your area and can be encouraged to nest in your yard. Make or buy a bird house specifically designed for the bird you wish to attract. The size of the entrance hole is critical to prevent the eggs and young from being destroyed by larger birds--always check a list of appropriate hole sizes. Other considerations include box size, height above the ground, direction the entrance hole faces, and amount of sunlight. Boxes may need baffles or other protective devices to limit access by cats and other predators.

Many species of birds can be attracted by a variety of feed in different styles of feeders. There are many styles of bird feeders available, from window-mounted feeders to those that hang from branches and stands. Many birds will readily eat right off the ground. Bird feed comes in a variety of choices; however, sunflower seeds appeal to many birds, as well as small mammals. Woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees are especially attracted to suet. Citrus fruit, chopped apples and bananas, and raisins will be eaten by numerous species, including robins, titmouse, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and mockingbirds.

Feeders may also attract wildlife species you may not want to feed such as starlings, crows, and squirrels. Feeder type and placement and the type of food can help deter unwanted species.

Unlike many other species of birds, hummingbirds rely on nectar as their source of food. These tiny, migratory birds are commonly seen in the summer in northern states gathering nectar from colorful flowers. Hummingbirds are typically attracted to red and yellow tubular flowers, although they frequently visit others. Hummingbird feeders can be purchased and filled with a sugar-water solution, consisting of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Every 3 to 4 days, wash the feeder with soap and water, rinse thoroughly, and add new sugar water.

Uploaded: 2/21/2004