Saving Migratory Birds
Migrating birds need WATER, FOOD and SHELTER. Whatever size your property -- and your
budget -- you can help meet their needs and enliven your yard. These are some of the ways
you can provide, water, food and shelter in the natural surroundings of your yard.
Birds need water for drinking and bathing. If your resources are unlimited, you can add a pond to your landscape. Short of that, you can buy a bird bath or put a shallow dish of water in your yard. A large plastic plant saucer works well. Here are some things to remember.
The water should be less than 2" deep, at least in part, so the birds can bathe. Birds will drink at ground level, but putting their water up on a pedestal or stump, or hanging it from a tree limb, gives them a better view of predators. A quick escape route from predators -- such as an overhanging branch or a nearby bush -- is essential.
The water should always be clean; regular scrubbing is required.
Ponds should be placed in sunny locations, bird baths in shady ones.
Birds are attracted to running water. If you can, hand a dripping hose or bucket over the water source, and conserve water with a recirculating pump.
Birds need a variety of foods depending on the season. Migratory birds arrive with the first spring caterpillars, and find them a succulent source of protein. Berries provide carbohydrates and fats, especially in the late summer and fall. Try to plant a wide variety of fruiting and flowering plants, plants that bloom or bear fruit from early spring through late fall. Include plants that attract insects. Oaks, hickories and maples are good choices, as well as any type of rotting wood.
Go native. Native plants are well-adapted to local soils and climates and require less water, fertilizer and pest control. The also offer the best overall food sources, and birds will help to disperse their seeds.
Shelter includes nesting places that protect birds from predators such as hawks and cats, and from harsh weather. Evergreen trees, shrubs and thick brush piles provide good cover.
HOW TO START
Figure out what you have and what you want. Map your yard on graph paper, and have your soil tested, before you change the landscape. Reduce the size of your lawn. Lawns are of little use to wildlife and they require extra water, fertilizer and pesticides. Cluster plants, taking into account their full-grown size and need for light. Value trees, including some dead trees, and take a long-range view. Some small, quickly accomplished projects such as adding a bird bath to the garden will make a big difference, but landscaping for wildlife can become a rewarding, life-long project.
(from Saving Migratory Birds: A Project for the Private Landowner, by Jamie K.
Doyle, BirdConservation Specialist, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center)
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