Friday, June 5, 2015

The New York Botannical Garden: Creating a Bird Garden

Creating a bird garden is a wonderful way to attract birds to your yard. The best way to create a bird garden is to provide birds with what they need: shelter, food, water, and places to nest.
  • Shelter:
    Birds need shelter to protect them from predators and the elements. In the winter, they need protection from snow, and during the year they seek refuge from heavy rain, wind, and predators.
  • Food:
    Plants supply birds with a large part of their diet, from seeds and fruits to providing a home for the insects that many birds feed on.
  • Water: Birds need water for drinking and bathing. Smaller birds tend to bathe in 1/2 inches of water, while larger birds prefer a 2-inch depth. You can build a small garden pond, buy a birdbath from a garden center, or place a large, shallow dish of water in your garden.
  • Nesting Sites:Birds have different requirements for nesting sites.  Some birds like to build their nests in evergreens (such as pine or spruce), while others prefer deciduous trees (such as oak, birch, apple and ash), where they can make their homes either in the intersections of large branches or in cavities in tree trunks. Shrubs that are not too dense or thinly branched often make good homes for bird nests. However, plants such as rhododendrons and viburnums do not have the three-way forks in their branch structure that can support a nest.  While these shrubs offer important shelter and food for birds, they do not provide a suitable nesting site.
Designing a Bird Garden
  • Design your garden with varying layers--tall trees, medium-size shrubs and perennials & ornamental grasses. This will accommodate many different types of birds.
  • Plant your garden to provide shelter for birds. Planting evergreens on the northern side of your property will protect birds from cold northerly winds while allowing sunlight into the south side of the garden.
  • Plant perennials and smaller shrubs in groups of threes, fives, or sevens to create a more natural look and to cover an area that birds can easily find and use. If you plant only one shrub that produces berries, for example, the berries may be decimated after birds' first visit.
  • Variety is important -- select a range of plants that provide food at different times of the season and attract a variety of bird species.
  • Create a dust bath in a sunny spot near the area where your birds feed. Sparrows in particular love to spend hours playing on dusty ground, and they are entertaining to watch.
  • Although it is important to rake the leaves on your lawn to prevent turf die-off, do not remove leaf litter in your perennial beds or under your shrubs. These leaves will compost and provide important nutrients to the soil. They will also be a haven for many of the insects that birds feed on.
  • Create a brush pile at the edge of your property, starting with your old Christmas tree and any fallen branches from trees and shrubs. Create a 6-foot-long pile with loosely stacked branches. Brush piles provide cover for birds and attract insects to their decaying branches.
Botanical NameCommon Name                   Attractor
Abies sp.firsshelter and nesting
Acer sp.maplesfruit or seeds
Betula sp.birchesfruit or seeds, shelter and nesting
Cornus sp.dogwoods fruit or seeds
Ilex sp.hollies fruit or seeds
Juniperus sp. junipers/red cedarsfruit or seeds, shelter and nesting
Malus sp. apples and crabapplesfruit or seeds
Picea sp. spruces fruit or seeds, shelter and nesting
Pinus sp. pines fruit or seeds, shelter and nesting
Prunus sp.cherries fruit or seeds
Quercus sp. oaksshelter and nesting 
Sorbus sp. mountain ash fruit or seeds
Tsuga sp.hemlocks shelter and nesting

Botanical NameCommon Name                   Attractor
Alnus sp.alders nesting
Amelanchier sp.shadbushfruit or seeds
Ilex sp.holliesfruit or seeds
Juniperus sp.junipers shelter
Leucothoe sp. leucothoes shelter 
Myrica sp.bayberry fruit or seeds 
Rhododendron sp. rhododendrons shelter 
Rhus sp. blackberriesfruit or seeds 
Rosa sp. rosesnesting
Spiraea sp. spireas nesting
Syringa sp.lilacsnesting
Taxus sp. yewsnesting
Vaccinium sp.blueberriesfruit or seeds 
Viburnum sp.viburnums fruit or seeds 

Perennials and Annuals
Botanical NameCommon Name                   Attractor
Aster sp.asterseeds and nectar
Coreopsis sp.coreopsis, tickseedseeds and nectar
Cosmos sp.cosmos seeds and nectar
Echinacea sp. coneflowers seeds and nectar 
Eupatorium sp. Joe-pye weed seeds and nectar
Helianthus sp.sunflowers seeds and nectar 
Liatris sp. blazing star seeds and nectar
Rudbeckia Susans seeds and nectar 
Sedum sp. sedums seeds and nectar
Solidago sp.goldenrod seeds and nectar
Tagetes sp. marigolds seeds and nectar
Vernonia noveboracensisNew York ironweedseeds and nectar
Zinnia sp.zinniasseeds and nectar 

Homemade Bird Feeder
It's not a plant, but a bird feeder can provide supplementary food for your bird garden. Here is a recipe for a simple one:
  • Mix 1 cup of peanut butter with 1/4 cup of honey.
  • Spread this mixture on a pine cone or bagel.
  • Roll the pine cone or bagel in birdseed.
  • Add a piece of yarn, and hang the feeder from a tree.

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