Bird-watching is one of fastest growing hobbies; participants eagerly spend thousands on trips to the rain forests of Costa Rica or other far flung lands. But sometimes, all you want to do is pour yourself a cool drink and let the birds come to you. Waking up every day to the sound of song is as easy as 1-2-3.
- Provide water, It doesn’t have to be one of the elaborate koi ponds or magnificent faux streams featured in the Philadelphia flower show every year at a cost of thousands of dollars. Sometimes, a tin pie plate filled and emptied daily will do. All living things need water to survive and providing it in some form boosts the likelihood of visiting birds. Nothing wrong with the old-fashioned bird-bath or fountain either. Both of these are attractive in themselves and can be focal-points for a small garden.
- Provide shelter. Birds are wary creatures, always on the lookout for hawks, foxes and other predators. Planting shrubs or vines can provide them with the thicket they need for comfort. If you take care of them, they will take care of you. The next time you cultivate your garden, step away a short distance and watch those quick avian exterminators go to work on your cutworms, caterpillars and other pests.
- Provide food. Your guests will dine where they are invited.
Most birds will eat insects, but they can be further sub-divided into fruit eaters, seed eaters and nectar eaters. Listed below is the bill of fare for your finicky guests.
Fruit eaters love to munch on holly berries, rose hips, wild raspberries, and bayberries. If you have any of these, expect command performances from robins, mockingbirds, and crape myrtle warblers among others. The most entertaining visitor will be the bohemian waxwing. This colorful clown is famous for gorging himself on fermented berries and becoming too cockeyed drunk to fly!
Seed eaters include goldfinches, grosbeaks, chickadees, tufted titmouse and many others. Planting colorful sunflowers and rudbeckia is certain to attract the goldfinch and his cousins. Chickadees, grosbeaks and tufted titmouse prefer the shelter of conifers or yews where they will add choice seeds to a diet that also contains plenty of insects.
Hummingbirds are famous for their liquid lunches. These birds have such high metabolisms that their energy needs are enormous, hence the need for pure sugar diets. Expect these critters to favor red or orange colored flowers with deep throats. The tubular-flowered fuchsia and cardinal flowers are particular favorites, but not the only ones. Hummingbirds are migratory and they are feisty little creatures that vigorously defend the territories they establish while on their yearly journeys too and from South America. On the eastern seaboard, they are most visible during the late summer months.