Birds add natural beauty to gardens, parks and other landscapes with their gorgeous colorations, happy chirps, and graceful flight. These feathered creatures also assist in plant pollination (i.e., hummingbirds) and in pest control by eating slugs, snails and wireworms (i.e., purple martins). It then comes as little surprise then that professional gardeners and landscapers plan outdoor spaces with the goal of attracting beneficial bird species.
The best way to attract birds into the garden is to concentrate on the cultivation of native plants including shrubs, vines and trees. Doing so is beneficial for several reasons:
1. Indigenous plants have evolved alongside the local wildlife and, thus, are most likely to provide the right attributes for birds to co-exist with. For example, hummingbirds drink the nectar from plants and, in the process, assist in the pollination of the species to form a mutually beneficial relationship.
2. Native plants create natural corridors where birds can fly back and forth in their natural habitats. In contrast, non-native plants can disrupt the flow, so to speak. Such aspect of plant cultivation is of particular importance to areas impacted by manmade development projects.
3. Indigenous plants will not crowd out other plant species, thus, ensuring diversity of plant life beneficial for the attraction of the local wildlife including birds. In contrast, non-native plants may provide abundant food for birds but are more likely to invade the entire area; examples include Japanese honeysuckle and buckthorn.
4. Of course, the definition of native plants will vary from one location to the next, which is also compounded by the fact that many plants are considered indigenous to several zones. The best way to determine whether a plant is indigenous to the area is to ask the experienced staff of your local plant nursery for more information.
5. When selecting native plants for your bird-friendly garden, consider the following factors:
6. Choose plants that provide food for birds in various ways such as from buds, flowers and nectar aside from the usual fruits.
7. Select species that provide food the whole year-round or for the most parts of the year so that the birds will keep coming even in winter. For example, serviceberries, mulberries and wild cherries provide fruits for the spring; magnolia, spicebush and flowering dogwood have ripening fruits in the fall; and nannyberry, crabapple and hawthorn provide winter sustenance.
The more diverse your choices in native plants, the more diverse the bird life in your garden!