8 Secrets to Creating a Bluebird-Friendly Backyard

Family of Eastern Bluebirds

Family of Eastern Bluebirds

Our Eastern Bluebirds arrive here in the northeast in May when weather has started to warm, and nights are no longer frigid. Since they are naturally docile and non-aggressive, invasive English sparrows tend to cannibalize their babies and move into their nest boxes without as much as a peep from the native bluebirds. So keep a wary eye out for this kind of activity, and remove the sparrow’s nest to discourage them.

Get Ready For Your Blue Birds to Arrive:

  1. These little guys love insects, so the first rule is to never use toxic insecticides!
  2. Provide wooden bird houses hung on metal garden stakes or posts, at the height of 5 feet off the ground. The entrance hole should be between 1-1/4″ to 1-1/2″ in diameter. Look for nest boxes made especially for them.
  3. They also love fruit: Plant holly and elderberry bushes, making sure there are male and female plants to produce the berries coveted by these lovely birds. You may also wish to plant strawberries and blueberries or raspberries, which are among their favorite foods.
  4. Bluebirds like wide open spaces, so imitate their native habitats which are wildflower fields and pastures with fence posts for cavity nesting, and large trees around the perimeter of the area.

Keep in mind these fields do not have to be large. But they should provide lots of native blooms like brown-eyed susans, and purple coneflowers that attract loads of beneficial insects. My wildflower ‘field’ is approximately 6′ x 10′ because that is all the space I have. As small as it is, birds and insects still abound.

  1. Plant a vegetable garden. Make your feathered visitors happy by installing vinyl wire fencing between the posts so they can perch and watch for their next meal, as well as make sure there aren’t any nearby predators.
  2. Give them a grassy patch of lawn that will provide lots of insects on which they can feast. If you wish, you can forego mowing this patch until it is 4″ or more tall. That will give your bluebirds lots of foraging opportunities. Again, this lawn area need not be huge if you don’t have the space available.
  3. Install a large bird bath with a ‘bubbler’ –something they cannot resist. As with many birds, these guys love to take baths and drink from clean water sources fairly low to the ground. The larger size will accommodate several bluebirds at once, since they love to socialize in small groups. The ‘bubbler’ mimics the sound of a brook, and acts as a natural attractant.
  4. Offer suet containing insects or fruits. Another treat, which is also known as bluebird candy, mealworms can be served in a specialized feeder or on a platform feeder. Also provide black oil sunflower seeds, which are another favorite food.

These voracious insect eaters will help control your bug population without having to use poisons. Enjoy their naturally sweet songs, and beautiful color, and you will see why it is said that they ‘wear the sky on their backs and the sun on their chests’!

 

Connie Smith is the proud owner and manager of Grandma Pearl’s Backporch, LLC, and the expert author of many online articles about easy and unique ways you can create the best bird-friendly habitats to help wild birds survive and thrive.

Discover how to create fun and safe backyard habitats for wild birds using their preferred plants and foods, while adding color, fragrance and beauty to your landscape.

Find simple how-to projects for making your own unique bird feeders; and learn how easy it is to attract a variety of birds to your yard and gardens. Join the fun and visit today!

http://grandmapearlsbackporch.blogspot.com

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

Why Do Baby Birds Fall Out of Their Nests?

The Blackbird (urdus merula) at a nest with hungry baby birds.

The Blackbird (urdus merula) at a nest with hungry baby birds.

Can you imagine being way up high in a tree, and the March winds start blowing really hard? If your nest isn’t in the right spot, or attached securely, you just might end up on the ground! Although song birds weigh very little, if they fall from a very high place they can get hurt. Their wings and tail feathers will not be fully developed until about 2 weeks after they have hatched. In the meantime, they are vulnerable to the elements, and their nest mates.

Reasons Baby Birds Fall Out of Nests:

  • High Winds and Fierce Storms Dislodge the Structure
  • Lack of Ideal Nesting Sites
  • Aggressive Siblings Push Them Out
  • Nursery is Too Crowded for All to Fit
  • Young Bird is in Transition

As we were strolling down the street window shopping one warm spring day, one of my friends spotted a baby bird on the sidewalk. We looked up to see that its nest had been built on a second story window ledge. There were no trees or nearby perching opportunities for the fledglings that were just learning to fly. That’s why it was in such a dangerous place, just inches from a busy street. Lack of suitable nesting sites put these little birds in harm’s way.

The small ornamental trees that had been growing along the sidewalk were taken out by the public works department in the previous fall season. It’s possible the parents had instinctively chosen this site because they once nested there when they had the benefit of nearby branches from which to practice their short flights.

Sometimes there might be many hours or even days before all the eggs in a clutch hatch. In that case, the first one out of its shell has the best advantage because the parents will immediately begin to feed it. From then on, it is a struggle to be the one that gets fed the most often.

It is a fact that occasionally the larger more aggressive nestling will push a smaller, weaker nest mate out. That’s what is known as ‘survival of the fittest’. It isn’t pretty, but it does ensure that the strongest offspring will eventually perpetuate their species successfully.

Now and then the nest becomes too crowded for all the baby birds to fit comfortably inside. In that case, something has to give. Cowbirds are notorious for laying their egg in another bird’s nest. Mom and Pop usually feed the cowbird hatchling along with their own offspring, even though it is bigger and louder. And before it is ready to fly on its own, one or more of the other little birds end up on the ground.

Maybe it didn’t fall out after all?

If the eyes are open and the little bird has all its feathers, it’s quite possible it is in transition from being a nestling to becoming a fledgling, beginning to explore its surroundings. This is particularly true of birds that like to find their food on the ground, like the American Robin.

In this case, it is best for the baby bird that everyone leaves the area. Its parents are nearby watching and ready to fend off possible predators. They will also continue to teach their youngster how to forage for food, and how to use its wings. This may go on for the next couple of days until junior can take to the air under his own power.

From destructive storms, to bigger, ‘badder’ nest mates, to parasitizing cowbirds throwing their weight around, to fledglings learning to forage on the ground; all are reasons for young birds to depart their nests prematurely. But it’s amazing how resilient wildlife can be when given the chance.

 

Connie Smith is the proud owner and manager of Grandma Pearl’s Backporch, LLC, and the expert author of many online articles about easy and unique ways you can create the best bird-friendly habitats to help wild birds survive and thrive. Discover how to create fun and safe backyard habitats for wild birds using their preferred plants and foods, while adding color, fragrance and beauty to your landscape. Find simple how-to projects for making your own unique bird feeders; and learn how easy it is to attract a variety of birds to your yard and gardens. Visit today!

http://grandmapearlsbackporch.blogspot.com

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

The Colors That Bring Birds to Your Yard and Gardens

Hummingbird in a colorful garden

Hummingbird in a colorful garden

Most everyone knows that hummingbirds, for example, are primarily drawn to reds, pinks and oranges. But did you know that the color of the bird often determines their personal color preference? Northern Cardinals look for areas where red flowers abound, and Baltimore Orioles can’t resist orange blooms.

Color: How It Relates to Survival

It’s all connected to the fact that to a bird, brightly colored feathers indicate successful food finders. If the plumage is healthy and bright, then that bird has found a source for excellent nutrition. Its offspring will have inherited the same trait for effectively finding the best nutrition-rich sustenance. In this sense, birds are elitists! They seek out the ‘cream of the crop’ when it comes to mates. It’s all part of Nature’s elegant plan to ensure the survival of the species.

Purples, yellows, greens, blues and browns are all very exciting hues to our feathered residents. These familiar and comforting colors are natural magnets for birds, as well as butterflies and beneficial bees. Plant mounds of flowers exhibiting these shades and you are sure to be surrounded by loads of happy, bubbly bird songs!

Don’t Use This Color:

But there is one color you must avoid if you are looking to bring birds to your gardens, and that is white! To a bird, white signals danger-flee at all costs. They have come to know that many predatory birds carry patches of white on their wings, chest, tail feathers or back. It is such an effective warning that should they come to a yard with mass plantings of white blooms, birds will steer clear of the area entirely. So use white sparingly in your bird-friendly landscaping.

As you visit your local garden center, keep your backyard birds in mind. Decorative outdoor items can play a big part in attracting birds to your yard. In fact, if you have an old bench, chairs or tables that need a little ‘pick-me-up’, bright shades like pink, yellow, red, blue and green can be used separately or in combination. Think ‘happy’ and you can’t go wrong!

How about adding a bird house that has been ‘dressed up’ with color; or maybe a lovely set of wind chimes! Birds love music, but stay away from lots of shine. Remember to use duller shades of bronze or copper rather than anything glitzy. Also, avoid things that move fast in the wind, especially if they are shiny.

Plant beautifully colorful flowers, vegetables and shrubs that offer ‘eye candy’ for your garden helpers, and they will stay to eat garden pests and weed seeds. If you only have room for patio pots, paint them with bright hues and choose flowers with birds in mind.

Go Organic!

Use organic soil and mulch to guarantee healthy plants, birds and beneficial insects. Stay away from toxic ‘name brand’ insecticides and herbicides. They not only poison the good bugs, but the birds that eat them. And they end up in our soil and water, causing all kinds of diseases.

Make your yard and garden a feast for your eyes as well as the birds. You’ll create a space that will be a joy for you and the nature that surrounds you.

 

Connie Smith is the proud owner and manager of Grandma Pearl’s Backporch, LLC, and the expert author of many online articles about easy and unique ways you can create the best bird-friendly habitats to help wild birds survive and thrive.

Discover how to create fun and safe backyard habitats for wild birds using their preferred plants and foods, while adding color, fragrance and beauty to your landscape.

Find simple how-to projects for making your own unique bird feeders; and learn how easy it is to attract a variety of birds to your yard and gardens. Join the fun and visit today!

http://grandmapearlsbackporch.blogspot.com

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

About Hummingbirds and How to Attract Them to Your Garden

Hummingbird in Flight

Hummingbird in Flight

Visualize watching a bright green hummingbird in your garden moving from flower to flower in search of the tasty nectar within. These beautiful and tiny birds weigh about 2 to 20 grams and are found in a wide variety of environments from the high Andes to lowlands, and from dry desert areas to rainforests. They have slender beaks, extensible tongues, ten primary feathers, and tiny feet suitable for perching but not walking.

Hummingbirds can fly straight up, straight down, backwards, left, right, and even upside down. While most birds obtain their flight strength only from the down stroke, hummingbirds have power on the up stroke as well.

Most hummingbirds flap their wings about fifty times a second and have a very fast heartbeat and high body temperature. They feed every ten minutes or so throughout the day and typically consume two-thirds of their body weight in a single day. Their source of nutrition is primarily nectar from flowers, as well as sources of protein from insects and tiny spiders.

The key to attracting hummingbirds to your garden mainly consists of the right type of flowers and places where they can perch and rest during the day, such as trees or large plants. Hummingbirds are guided by visual means and are particularly attracted to certain shades of red. According to The Hummingbird Society, there are several possible explanations for their preference of red blossoms. Given that insects also see nectar, they can be regarded as competitors. Nearly all insects see well in the visible and near-ultraviolet light but poorly in the red end of the spectrum. Also, a red blossom may appear nearly black and unattractive to a number of insects, but not to the hummingbird, which can see the full visible spectrum but also some in the ultraviolet. This makes it less likely that an insect has taken nectar from a red flower. Another likely explanation is that during migration, red blossoms effectively contrast with a green environment more than other colored flowers do.

Hummingbirds are welcomed guests to nearly all gardens. By planting flowering shrubs and plants that are their favored food source, we can easily attract them to become regular visitors to our gardens. Below is a short list of their preferred flowering plants by common name, separated by region:

Southeastern United States:

o Butterfly Bush

o Cardinal Flower

o Coral or Trumpet Honeysuckle

o Cypress Vine

o Native Trumpet Creeper

o Texas Sage

Southwest United States:

o Indian Paintbrush

o Lantana

o Lily of the Nile

o Mexican Honeysuckle

o Texas Sage

o Western Coral Bean

West Coast United States:

o Beebalm

o Bottle Brush

o Cape Fuchsia

o Colombine

o Salmonberry

o Woodland Orchard

Northeastern United States:

o Blue Lobelia

o Cardinal Flower

o Hollyhock

o Red Morning Glory

o Salvia

o Scarlet Sage

Midwest United States:

o Coral Bells

o Coral Honeysuckle

o Foxglove

o Hosta

o Impatients

o Lilac

Even though flowers are the natural means to attract hummingbirds to your garden, man-made feeders filled with a mixture of water and sugar (sucrose) are an essential alternative. Sugar, whether from a flower or a feeder, is a necessary nutrient in a hummingbird’s diet. Tests have shown that hummingbirds favor sucrose in flower nectar more than other sugars such as fructose and glucose. Therefore, with the proper ratio of ingredients, your feeder becomes a good substitute to the flowers that hummingbirds like best.

The formula for the mixture used in hummingbird feeders is 4 parts water (not distilled) to 1 part table sugar. Boil the mixture for one to two minutes, then cool and store in refrigerator. The mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. Do not use red food coloring, honey, or artificial sweeteners in your mixture, as this could be harmful to the hummingbirds.

If one of your goals is to attract hummingbirds to your garden, a visit to your local nursery is a great starting point. Find an experienced employee who can tell you which species of plants grow well in your area and have a history of successfully attracting hummingbirds. Most importantly, be imaginative and have fun planting and growing your garden to attract beautiful hummingbirds.

 

Lesley Dietschy is a freelance writer and the founder of http://www.HomeDecorExchange.com – The Home Decor Exchange is a valuable website full of information and resources about home and garden decorating.

In addition to editing the Home Decor Exchange website, Lesley is a crochet pattern designer and needle fiber artist. You can view her crochet patterns and needle fiber designs at: http://www.ErinOliviaDesigns.Etsy.com

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

Are Spiders a Bird’s Best Friend?

Diadem Spider

Diadem Spider

I know what you’re thinking–creepy, crawly spiders–YUCK! The little ones don’t bother me, but the larger field spiders, and those that have bright colors give me pause. I don’t mind them so much as long as they are outside. That’s why I have a dedicated ‘bug jar’. I have become adept at capturing them and returning them to the wild from whence they came!

But to the birds they are an essential part of their lives. Spiders provide an important and constant protein source, especially when birds are raising young. Did you know that it is estimated there are up to a million spiders per hectare (equal to approximately 2.5 acres) of land? That’s a huge food base in and of itself, not to mention all the beetles and other bugs that birds hunt down and ingest, or feed to their young.

Even in the wintertime, birds seek spiders that have tucked themselves under the bark of trees, and hunkered down beneath leaf litter, or hidden themselves inside spent flower and weed seed heads. Spiders contain a secret ingredient coveted by wild birds. That ingredient is taurine, which is an amino acid that affects how baby birds develop. Taurine helps them stay calm when all around them is in chaos, plus it leads to improved eyesight.

Another benefit of taurine is, and this is a biggie, increased intelligence! Wild birds have learned over the millennia that by feeding spiders to their babies, their youngsters grow up to be smarter and more courageous than the previous generation. The term ‘bird brain’ is a misnomer when it comes to wild birds.

Many passerine (singing, perching) birds use spider silk as a soft lining for their nests. Hummingbirds come to mind as a major consumer in the spider silk industry. They quite often pluck the insects from the spider webs as well. In that regard, webs are like convenience stores for our feathered friends.

Because webs have a sticky quality, they are used to ‘glue’ birds’ nests to branches. Outer camouflage becomes possible when birds ‘paste’ lichens, moss, dry leaves, etc. to their constructions. Nests then blend in with their backgrounds very efficiently, helping to make baby birds less vulnerable to predation.

So you see, as much as spiders may revile most of us humans, our avian friends depend upon them for super-food, quick snacks, and hiding their nurseries in plain sight. Understandably, it is of the utmost importance not to use toxic insecticides. Don’t take away this valuable food source for your wild birds!

 

Connie Smith is the proud owner and manager of Grandma Pearl’s Backporch, LLC, and the expert author of many online articles about easy and unique ways you can create the best bird-friendly habitats to help wild birds survive and thrive.

Discover how to create fun and safe backyard habitats for wild birds using their preferred plants and foods, while adding color, fragrance and beauty to your landscape.

Find simple how-to projects for making your own unique bird feeders; and learn how easy it is to attract a variety of birds to your yard and gardens. Join the fun and visit today!

http://grandmapearlsbackporch.blogspot.com

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

House Sparrows – Safety in Numbers

Sparrows

Sparrows

Ever observe just one House Sparrow? Odds are – if you did – food is extremely scarce. Otherwise, House Sparrows tend to send out an alarm when they find food. With multiple birds feeding, there are more eyes out for predators such as cats and hawks. Or, the safety may lie in the fact that an individual’s odds are better when there are lots of birds – that another bird will be taken when a predator does in fact strike.

This aggressive little sparrow is not directly related to American sparrows. Originating in Europe, its introduction into North America allowed it to spread just about every where but Alaska and parts of Canada. Go into any urban area, and you can be reasonably sure you will find House Sparrows. These bold little birds will all but sit on a person’s lap looking for handouts.

Not only do they eat together, but they roost together, and nest side by side. A female is capable of up to 4 broods a summer, and may do so through an assortment of males. Nests are placed in various nooks and crannies found in buildings and bushes, and occasionally, in holes found in trees. Very territorial, house sparrows will evict other birds such as bluebirds and tree swallows. The eviction may involve removing the other birds nest, eggs, and even killing the brooding female.

While there might be safety in numbers, on closer observation, you will observe behaviors associated with a pecking order. While some birds display dominance behaviors, others display submissiveness. These behaviors may determine who mates and who does not. However, one female may attract the attention of more than one male, even when a pair has been established.

House Sparrows favor assorted grains. Back in their native Britain, they would sometimes descend upon grain crops in large numbers and do considerable damage. Although, in more recent years, their numbers have been declining in Britain. Interestingly, it is a decline in the appropriate insects that is suspected to be the cause for the drop in numbers of House Sparrows.

Speaking of insects, these little birds will even take on large insects. They are sometimes observed tackling cicadas, and it is up to debate who is guiding the ensuing flight as the House Sparrow attempts to take off with its prey.

While this aggressive little bird competes with native species for nesting spots, there does not seem to be any apparent threat to any native species. If anything, we need to watch this bird closely. If the House Sparrow numbers start declining in North America, will that be a sign that insect populations are declining – offering a possible threat to other birds?

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

Photo: Rudy Tiben

What to Do If You Find a Baby Bird That Has Fallen Out of Its Nest

Baby Bird

Baby Bird

It’s a beautiful, warm day in early spring. Smell that fresh, fragrant air! The soil is waking up, early blooms are following the energy of the sun, and birdsong permeates the lovely breeze. Uh-oh! What’s that under the tree? Oh no, it’s a baby bird! It seems to be teetering on unsteady legs, and uncertain of its next move. Eyes blinking often, head turning slightly from side to side, beak opening with no utterance– what do I do?

Unfortunately, this is a scenario that is played out every spring. There are things you can do to help, depending upon the situation. On the other hand, interceding can sometimes be the wrong thing to do. Let’s see if we can figure this out so our helpless little bird has the best chance to survive.

  1. Clear the area of curious children and pets. Although little kids as well as animals like to discover exciting new things, this is not the time for satisfying that curiosity. Adult birds watching over their youngster might decide to abandon the little guy if there is too much activity and noise.

Baby birds can become stressed very easily. Imagine being tiny and unable to defend yourself, suddenly surrounded by many strange moving things, all making noise. What would your instinct tell you to do?

If our fallen friend starts to stress out, it can lead to a bad outcome. It may try to flee, even though it is not equipped to successfully do so at this point in its life. The activity could attract a predator, which would make a quick meal of the little one.

  1. Call a Wildlife Rehabilitator. Look in your yellow pages for the one nearest you. State and County Wildlife Offices can often put you in contact with a Wildlife Rehabber as well. Your local police agency or State Police Barracks should also be able to help you find a Rehabber. Wildlife Rehabilitators are certified and trained to know what to do in these situations. They can make the determination that will best benefit the bird. The ‘rehabber’ can also advise you as to what you can do to keep the little bird safe until help arrives.
  2. If the tiny bird is featherless, and/ or the eyes are still unopened, or if it appears to be injured, it can be very carefully placed into a small cardboard box that is lined with paper towels. Use a pair of clean gloves to ensure that bacteria won’t be transmitted to the baby bird. It is a myth that adult birds might abandon their infant because it ‘smells like a human’. Keep the container covered with a light weight towel and place it in a warm, dark and quiet spot away from noise. Again, this is where you rely upon the wildlife rehabilitator to tell you if and how you should proceed.

Important: Under no circumstances should you attempt to feed or give water to a wild bird! This is best done by someone specifically trained to do so.

Keep a watchful eye out in the springtime when fledglings are most vulnerable. Most of the time they remain safely in their nests, but now you know what to do if a nestling ends up on terra firma.

 

Connie Smith is the proud owner and manager of Grandma Pearl’s Backporch, LLC, and the expert author of many online articles about easy and unique ways you can create the best bird-friendly habitats to help wild birds survive and thrive.

Discover how to create fun and safe backyard habitats for wild birds using their preferred plants and foods, while adding color, fragrance and beauty to your landscape. Find simple how-to projects for making your own unique bird feeders; and learn how easy it is to attract a variety of birds to your yard and gardens. Visit today!

http://grandmapearlsbackporch.blogspot.com

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

How Do Wild Birds Show Anger?

Photo of a screaming eagle taken at the World Bird Sanctuary in Missouri.

Photo of a screaming eagle taken at the World Bird Sanctuary in Missouri.

Birds cope with other birds, wildlife and humans in a number of ways. When defending their territory, family and food sources, they can become irate and fearful. There are at least 5 ways that birds show anger:

  • physical attack
  • posturing and use of body language
  • loud scary sounds and vocalizations
  • element of surprise by suddenly flashing bright colors
  • hissing, growling and regurgitating

A tufted titmouse has found his mate, and they have begun to build their nest. While foraging for food, he sees his reflection in your house window. Thinking there is an intruder looking to take over his territory, Mr. Titmouse begins to attack the imaginary menace. His crest is pointed towards his target as he repeatedly flies at the window, banging against it with his beak, talons and chest.

On the battle front, size matters. Birds puff themselves up to seem larger to an enemy. They will stretch up taller, hold their wings out from their sides and push out their chests. If they can encourage the other bird to go away because they perceive no hope exists that they can win the battle, no blood will have to be shed. However, if that doesn’t work, birds will engage in bloody attacks that can result in fatal injuries.

Just like people, birds have distinct personalities. American crows tend to be quick to respond to what they perceive as threats to their territory, food source or family. Warnings are transmitted to the trespasser by body language and vocalizations. If posturing and saber rattling don’t do the trick, an actual attack may be the only recourse.

I will never forget one night in the summertime. The meteorologists had announced a meteor shower to take place sometime after midnight until very early morning. It was an exceptionally clear and starry night here in the woods, so I ventured into the backyard. For some reason, I didn’t grab my flashlight before heading out back.

All of a sudden I heard a very loud and strange ‘whinnying’ sound right behind my head! That’s probably the fastest I’ve ever run in my life! At first I was too startled to realize that it wasn’t an angry stray horse I had heard; but I had apparently intruded upon a screech owl’s hunting territory. A startled bird, especially a predatory bird, can be a very angry bird! One of the ways they demonstrate their anger is in loud and unexpected vocalizations.

Scary sounds can often make a would-be trespasser turn tail and run. But if that doesn’t do the trick, some birds are also equipped with bright patches of color. A sudden flash of white, red, yellow or orange is intended to cause confusion just long enough for a swift getaway. Juncos demonstrate this when they suddenly take flight and flare the white edges of their tail feathers.

Barn owls and turkey vultures will hiss and growl at interlopers. They learn to do this when they are very young. In fact, if you should happen upon turkey vulture nestlings, they will not only make nasty sounds, but they will probably regurgitate! That’s another very effective mechanism some birds employ when they become fearful or angry.

Each species has developed its own way of showing annoyance and irritation. Just like people, some react more violently than others, depending upon the circumstances. If you are out hiking or birding, it is helpful to recognize the signs of an angry bird, especially in the spring and early summer when they are seeking mates and nesting!

 

Connie Smith is the proud owner and manager of Grandma Pearl’s Backporch, LLC, and the expert author of many online articles about easy and unique ways you can create the best bird-friendly habitats to help wild birds survive and thrive. Discover how to create fun and safe backyard habitats for wild birds using their preferred plants and foods, while adding color, fragrance and beauty to your landscape. Find simple how-to projects for making your own unique bird feeders; and learn how easy it is to attract a variety of birds to your yard and gardens. Visit today!

http://grandmapearlsbackporch.blogspot.com

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

Create a Songbird Haven by Planting Mixed Hedgerows

Weigela Bush

Weigela Bush

One early spring day many years ago, I watched birds visiting the beautiful white clouds of blooms on the wild serviceberry trees. That got me thinking about mixing native plants and shrubs that would entice lots of birds to my woodland yard and gardens.

Instead of a boring one-of-a-kind group of shrubs, why not try different sizes, shapes and densities. How about mixing climbing and fruiting vines with various shrub plants? Mixed hedgerows offer many advantages for your yard, gardens and songbirds.

  • Flower, fruits and fragrances
  • Shelter from storms and predators
  • Safe, protected nesting sites
  • Attractive to native beneficial insects that help pollinate all your plants and flowers
  • Necessary protein in the form of caterpillars and insects to help baby birds grow strong and healthy

I started with a fragrant spice bush that blooms in late June and early July. It is always a delight to see the many swallowtail butterflies, both black and yellow, that are addicted to this deep pink, aromatic lilac-like bush. I have also seen some amazing hummingbird moths as well as Ruby Throated hummingbirds paying many visits to my spice bush. It was a great choice to begin my mixed hedgerow.

The year after that, I planted several weigela bushes. I like variety, so I chose deep red, deep pink, white and variegated cultivars. Those were mixed with pink spirea that was planted at the same time. That year I received a double purple lilac from my Mom as a birthday gift. The next year 6 Rose of Sharon plants were interspersed within my other hedge plantings (1 double white and 1 lavender, 2 deep rose, and 2 white with deep rose throats). They become resplendent in early August, beckoning butterflies, hummingbirds and beneficial insects galore.

Since that time I have gradually added black raspberry bushes, a climbing rose (Robin Hood) and American Fly Honeysuckles along with American Bittersweet and American Holly Plants. Three years ago a climbing Hydrangea began its leafy journey up and across the east side of my house. This past spring, a hummingbird vine, and a crabapple and mulberry tree joined my hedgerows. In the meantime, the spirea and black raspberries have multiplied on their own, and by the birds I suspect as well.

Two months ago I planted Northern Bayberry plants, elderberries, red raspberries and fox grapes. Sweet deer fern are native to this area, and mingle with older plants and bushes, along with wild huckleberries. Can you guess how many birds I have in my yard at any given time?

Next year I want to add silver lace vines to the landscape. American Highbush Cranberry and flower- and berry-bearing Viburnums and Virginia Creeper vines are on my list for future plantings. While some of my plants are considered invasive, I find that judicious pruning at the end of the flowering season does wonders for keeping everything in check. Also, when planted densely in a mixed hedgerow configuration, I have observed that each plant seems to police the others, so overgrowth doesn’t happen.

You can see from my planting history that you don’t have to install everything at once. I find it best to shop the closeout sales at the end of the season for great prices. Each plant will have a tag so you know where it will grow best. Consider the hours of sunlight you have, the part of your yard (whether sheltered or not), and your specific soil conditions. Also make sure you choose native plants for your area. That’s what your birds will be looking for; and those plants will be acclimated to your region so they have the best chance of thriving.

Over the years my yard has become a bird haven that makes me very proud and happy. There is something fragrant and colorful in bloom everyday around here. And that is the best testament I can give for planting a mixed hedgerow.

More Plants for Birds:

  • Dogwoods produce white, pink or red flowers and plenty of red fruits for birds to enjoy.
  • Spruce and Red Cedar Trees provide fruit and seeds throughout the winter months.
  • Staghorn Sumac presents beautiful fall foliage of bright red and prolific clusters of red berries that last all winter long.

 

Connie Smith is the proud owner and manager of Grandma Pearl’s Backporch, LLC, and the expert author of many online articles about easy and unique ways you can create the best bird-friendly habitats to help wild birds survive and thrive. Discover how to create fun and safe backyard habitats for wild birds using their preferred plants and foods, while adding color, fragrance and beauty to your landscape. Find simple how-to projects for making your own unique bird feeders; and learn how easy it is to attract a variety of birds to your yard and gardens. Visit today!

http://grandmapearlsbackporch.blogspot.com

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

The Real Truth About Turkey Vultures

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

When I was a young girl, many, many years ago, my Mom and I often picked wild strawberries as a special summertime treat for that night’s dessert. On one occasion, as I bent down to loosen a cluster of sweet tiny red berries from their stems, out of the corner of my eye something caught my attention. I looked past our neighbor’s house, and into the sky above ‘Sugar Hill’, where I had enjoyed watching so many awesomely beautiful sunsets. A large dark bird with an impressive wingspan was moving silently and slowly, circling in the sky over the hill.

“What IS that, Mom?” My mother stopped picking berries and stood upright, shading her eyes from the bright sun. “Oh”, she said with a positive note, “that’s a turkey vulture riding a thermal.”

The truth about turkey vultures:

  • Gentle, caring and devoted parents
  • Do not spread any diseases whatsoever, contrary to popular beliefs
  • Essential part of Nature’s cleanup crew
  • Perform removal of carcasses before they can become diseased
  • Purify environment by eliminating animal cadavers that are already infected
  • Considered sacred in some cultures for their gift of sanitizing
  • Enjoy soaring on high using warm thermals to lift them ever upward
  • Resemble wild turkeys with their red featherless head, dark body and two-tone wings

When you think of vultures, what images come to mind? Lazy, dirty, aggressive, morbid harbingers of death? While those are understandable responses, I fear they are based on images conjured up by Hollywood Westerns.

The black vultures most often seen in the west and south throughout Mexico are indeed aggressive. They circle on high looking for their next meal, and squabble over their finds like selfish children.

But the Turkey Vultures are quite another story. Common all over the United States, it is the turkey vulture that uses its highly developed ability to detect the stench of cadavers, even at great distances. These large eagle-sized birds sport distinctive two-toned wings that are dark brown, with silvery grey feathers on their wing edges.

Turkey vulture heads are small and featherless for a very good reason. Think about it–much like workmen dress for the job, these birds do the opposite. They undress (their heads) for the task at hand. If their noggins had feathers, they would get all gummed up when they dove into carcasses. It’s not pretty, but it’s true. Vultures would be spending far too much of their time preening and cleaning instead of filling their bellies. The smaller head size allows them to get into all the nooks and crannies where the meat is. In the bird world, efficiency most often translates to survival.

When the young hatch from their excellently camouflaged eggs, they are helpless to defend or feed themselves. Their parents are ever watchful for possible predatory attacks, and they are adept at providing plenty of food for their downy chicks for the next 60 to 80 days.

Vultures are an elegant part of Nature’s cleanup crew. In some cultures they are revered as purifiers and cleansers. Buddhists believe they have the ability to release the soul and take it to Heaven. So it is a routine practice to offer their dead to vultures for ‘cleansing’ and delivery to the firmament, also known as ‘sky burials’.

Their scientific name, Cathartes aura, actually translates to either ‘purifying breeze’ or ‘golden purifier’. Either of those interpretations is more accurate than the word ‘vulture’, which means to tear.

Turkey Vultures are gentle creatures, despite their ghoulish reputations. They will take turns, rather than fight over bits and pieces of flesh. Other birds, like the smaller black vultures and hawks, find it easy to drive them away from their own finds.

Having excellent immune systems keeps them from contracting any nasty diseases from the dead animals they ingest. When roosting on the ground or atop a dead tree stump, they spread their wings outward with their backs to the sun to help rid them of parasites contracted from their food sources.

If they feel afraid or threatened they regurgitate (often in the direction of the perceived threat). This offensive act repels, and takes their attacker by surprise, with the sight and awful odor. Plus, it serves to lighten the load for a quicker get away!

The unfounded fears that turkey vultures spread disease often prompts intentional shootings and cruel poisonings and trappings. But these birds keep the environment clean and disease free, rather than the reverse.

As humans, I think we sometimes tend to equate beauty with goodness, and ugliness with evil. All living things have a role on this Earth. The misunderstood and much maligned Turkey Vulture serves a noble purpose. We need to look past the superficial idea of attractiveness, and give the Turkey Vulture the reverence it has rightfully earned and deserves.

 

Connie Smith is the proud owner and manager of Grandma Pearl’s Backporch, LLC, and the expert author of many online articles about easy and unique ways you can create the best bird-friendly habitats to help wild birds survive and thrive. Discover how to create fun and safe backyard habitats for wild birds using their preferred plants and foods, while adding color, fragrance and beauty to your landscape. Find simple how-to projects for making your own unique bird feeders; and learn how easy it is to attract a variety of birds to your yard and gardens. Visit today!

http://grandmapearlsbackporch.blogspot.com

Article Source: EzineArticles.com