When you’re at the Garden Center choosing perennials, annuals and flowering shrubs for your yard, there are probably many factors that affect your decision. The size of the plants at maturity. The color and time of bloom. Perhaps whether or not the plants will re-flower. These are all qualities that we take into consideration. But let’s throw one more factor into the mix. Do the flowers that you plant attract birds?
It’s hard to imagine a yard without our fine feathered friends. A key to getting birds to linger in your landscape is to give them what they want – food, water, nesting materials and cover. And in addition to feeders, another way to provide birds with nutrition is by planting seed bearing perennials.
Birds are attracted to flowers, so the more different species and varieties you have, the better. Native plants are especially good choices. They help to create a natural balance between predators and prey.
There are lots of perennials from which to choose. Purple Coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, Asters and Coreopsis all produce seeds that are attractive to many different types of birds, from chickadees and song sparrows to nuthatches and titmice. Goldfinches will think that your yard is their idea of heaven if you plant Goldenrod and Blazing Star. And the tube-shaped blossoms of Hyssop, Penstemon and Salvia are hummingbird magnets.
And when you’re selecting annuals for next spring, you can keep birds in mind. Cosmos and ornamental millet can make quite a statement in your container gardens. Gardeners love them for their flowers. The birds love them for the seed they produce. Who doesn’t have a small sunny spot for a few sunflowers? The cardinals will be over the moon come late summer and early fall.
Of course, there are other things you can do as well. Providing a consistent supply of fresh water is a simple way to attract a wide variety of feathered friends to your yard. The bonus to the watcher is that water will draw birds that don’t always visit feeders. Many birds bathe and preen in order to keep their feathers in perfect flying condition, so a supply of clean water is essential. And the dry nature of a seed- or insect-eating bird’s diet demands more water than the fruit-eating species. This source can be anything, from a device that mists or drips to a birdbath or backyard pond. Birdbaths can be sited on the ground or on a pedestal and can be constructed of many materials. Plastic, terracotta and cement are a few of the more popular choices. Just remember to keep the basin as clean as possible.
Cover is something that we often forget about, so provide some plants that offer nesting sites. And site a few evergreens plants near your feeding areas to supply much needed protection from hawks and owls, as well as the neighborhood cats.
Over three hundred species of birds migrate through or settle in the state of Wisconsin. Of these, about fifteen are songbirds that commonly nest in residential areas. Unless your home is surrounded by pavement, you can have some feathered visitors to your yard with no extra effort or encouragement. But with a bit of planning, you will be rewarded with many of the less common species, and perhaps a few rare ones.