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 taming the landscape with life on the wild side.
How can I attract more birds?
1. Got trees?
Native trees support native birds. Aim for year-round food sources specific to those birds.
Deciduous and evergreen trees simulate forest canopy. Fruit of Southern redcedar (Juniperus silicicola) attracts cedar waxwings and yellow-rumped warblers. American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) provide nuts for some birds. Magnolia grandiflora and sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) provde cover and fruit for woodpecker and red-eyed vireo. Pine seeds are eaten by chickadees, blue jays, nuthatches, quail, pine warblers and others.
Underutilized trees such as Quercus virginiana (live oak) and Diospyros virginiana (American persimmon) are adapted to north Florida temps and well drained soils. The swamp white oak tolerates seasonal flooding and wetter soil conditions. Consider the Southern crabapple for decorative blossoms and attractive fruit.
2. Shrubs and vines 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) .
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.
3. 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 (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?
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 mimics nature. Click here for UF’s website Landscaping for Florida Wildlife. Attracting wildlife is a Florida-Friendly Landscaping principle. Reply below, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 352-486-5131, for more information. Until we meet again, Happy Gardening!