Every gardener dreams of beautiful lush gardens filled with color, life, and the peaceful songs of birds. However, birds have specific requirements that must be met before we can enjoy their benefits. Here are a few things that you can do to make your backyard a home for a wide variety of birds. As a gardener, birds have many benefits, they help us by pollinating plants, dispersing seed, and eating bugs that could be harmful to our plants or garden. Since we benefit from birds it’s especially important to know how to attract them. Birds require only 3 necessities…housing, water and food.
When providing housing for birds it is important to know how high birdhouses should be up off the ground, how far apart birdhouses should be spaced apart, what kinds of nesting materials you should provide, and what kinds of artificial housing birds will actually use.
When creating artificial housing for birds, be sure to place houses at least 5ft. off of the ground, and 200-300ft. apart from each other. Birds will not nest in crowded conditions. The average suburban backyard can only support 1 or 2 bird families. Also, be sure to place birdhouses in partial sun and if your birdhouse is fastened to a pole be sure that it is secure and will not sway in the wind.
When buying a birdhouse, try to buy one made of wood. Birdhouses made of other materials have been known to “cook” young in the heat of summer. Also, make sure that the house has many ventilation holes as well as drainage holes. A perch on a bird house is not necessary. It is actually better to find a house without one. Having a perch makes it easier for predators to attack the nest.
If you don’t wish to provide artificial housing, some birds may seek shelter in your trees or shrubs. Evergreens are best for birds to nest in because they provide shelter all year long. Birds tend to look for a wide variety of materials to build their nests. These include: yarn, twine, feathers, duck or goose down, rabbit or dog fur, horse hair, twigs, and dried grass. When providing yarn and twine make sure that none of the pieces exceed 4″ in length. Never include sewing thread or fishing line in your offerings, birds may get tangled in it.
After each summer when the birds abandon their nest, be sure to remove all nesting materials to encourage birds to use the birdhouse. Birds will not nest where there has already been a nest that’s why it’s especially important to remove all traces of the previous residents and to make sure that you’re attracting the right crowd. Hornets and bees may also try to make their home in birdhouses.
To attract a wide variety of birds try placing feed at a different heights to attract ground-feeding birds as well as other birds. If you decide to use a commercial bird feeder be sure to keep it clean to prevent the seed from molding and from being contaminated by bird droppings. Birds have a very diverse diet. Some like fruit, some like seed, some eat bugs, and some just want sweet nectar from your flowers.
If you decide to buy bird feed try to find some with sunflower seeds or a variety mix to attract Texas’s finest. These include, blue jays, cardinals, mocking birds and the chickadee. Be sure to keep fresh, clean water available for our feathered friends.
If you are trying to attract song birds here are a few plants that will draw in song birds: asters, tickseed, cosmos, millet, echinacea, and zinnias. Song birds will take shelter in cedar trees, viburnum, live oaks, hollies, and pines. When attracting hummingbirds, try planting bright colorful flowers such as: columbines, butterfly bushes, trumpet vines, fuchsias, impatients, bee balm, scented geraniums, penstemons, petunias, phlox, salvias, pineapple sage, firecracker plant, duranta, and the Texas star hibiscus. Birds are such a pleasant addition to any garden.