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How may we encourage nature coast birds to visit home landscapes?

Four Assorted Birds

On the fourth day of winter
a dear friend gave to me
four assorted birds.
Making small changes in the landscape benefit winged visitors. At minimum, birds need food, water, cover and space to bear and raise young. It is possible to balance our desire for cultivation with life on the wild side.

How can I attract more birds? Bird seed is so expensive. 

1.  Got trees?
Native trees do more than provide structure in the landscape. By design native trees support native birds. Identify your trees and the birds they supply. Aim for year-round food sources specific to those birds.

Birds find native plants with variety of height. Plants with seed and berries provide food.

Mix colorful annual with perennial as attractive border.

Deciduous and evergreen trees simulate forest canopy. Dioecious trees present primarily male or female flowers. Fruit is borne on ‘female’ flowers. Fruit of the female Southern redcedar (Juniperus silicicola) attracts cedar waxwings and yellow-rumped warblers.

2. Understory are trees with benefits.  Protection from predation, food and for us, pretty to behold. White cascading flowers of fringe tree emerge in early in spring. Shiny red berries of female yaupon and dahoon hollies persist into winter. These three are dioecious, although it is said the male flowers of fringe tree are more spectacular than female.

3. Shrubs provide a layer of cover. 
Blackberries providing good cover and nesting. Tasty berries are a valuable summer food source. Cardinal and mocking birds are partial to fall fruiting beautyberry (Callicarpa americana). Hummingbirds frequent orange-red flowers of coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) .  

Small seeds of native grasses provide food.

Sources of native bunch grasses include native plant society.

4. Crown a pergola, archway or trellis.
A man-made arbor with cross vine (Bignonia capreolata) or trumpet vine (Campis radicans) adds vertical interest. Could it frame a garden path? Click here for more native and exotic flowering vines. Borders of seed bearing native grasses, annual and perennial flowers stair step turf to tree canopy.

5. WATER is fundamental.
Birds need clean water. A bird bath near cover provides escape from predators.

“If you can design “wild” areas with your neighbors, try creating habitat along property lines or on adjacent corners of your properties where people traffic is low. This will create larger habitat patches for wildlife.” Mark E. Hostetler, Ph.D.

A word about snags.
Dead trees harbor insects and may provide nest cavities.

Dead trees provide shelter, food and nesting.

Dead trees (i.e. snags) harbor delicious insect, larvae and eggs. 40 bird species nest in tree cavities. Provide habitat with a snag that does not pose a safety risk to structures or people. Even a 10-15 foot stump is beneficial. “Dress up” the base with flowers and climbing vines.  Underplantings mimic nature.

I have a few trees, but mostly lawn. What now?
Layering plants from ground to tree canopy invites a wider variety of birds.

Build layers of plants from ground to tree canopy.

My husband enjoys mowing grass. He’s lamented we will not have any lawn if I continue to enlarge landscape beds. So for his enjoyment, I outline proposed landscape areas with water hoses. When the lord of the mower feels comfortable navigating the winding edge, it’s a win for all. He gets to mow turf. I enhance bird watching opportunities and enjoy the process, guilt free.

Lastly, install plants based on mature size to prevent overcrowding and maintenance. Stagger plants at random intervals to mimic nature. Assistance with tree identification and site specific options for improving the landscape is available to Dixie, Gilchrist and Levy residents. The Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program provides Florida-Friendly Landscape principles on first call, first serve basis. There is no charge for this service. Email for more information.  Until then, Happy Gardening!

On the fourth day of winter a dear friend gave to me
Four assorted birds.
Three Flowering Shrubs.
Two pruning friends.
And a cardinal in a crape tree.

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