Spending a lot more time in your garden now that things are heating up outside? I hear ya. Working the earth for that mid-summer tomato and zucchini payload is well worth the dirty fingernails, but one of the greatest pleasures in life can actually be enjoyed simply just by sitting back and taking in the scenery. By turning off the white noise in your brain – at least for 10 minutes – you’ll be better able to bear witness to the busy-beaver, social butterfly demeanor of Mother Nature’s original tweeters… birds.
Once you get into the bird-watching groove, you might just catch yourself feeling a little more relaxed, almost as though you’ve just taken a phenomenal yoga class. Then, before you know it, you’ll make it your personal mission to furnish your melodious little visitors with one or more luxurious birdie condos complete with attached grain silos and endlessly filtered water features. (Where there’s a DIY will, there’s a way...)
Budding bird-brains and seasoned avian enthusiasts! Increase your opportunity for bird sightings – which will in turn roll out the red carpet for your own personal zen-tastic stess busting sessions – just by making the following feeding strategies part of your birdie seduction plan:
GO HEAVY ON THE LANDSCAPING MULCH
In addition to providing your flowers, shrubs and other decorative greenery with an ace form of moisture retention, birds genuinely benefit when you lay the landscaping mulch on thick. It’s no secret that insects gravitate toward the dark, cool environment found beneath soil so don’t be surprised if you observe wild birds diligently plucking juicy bugs and squirmy things out of the wood chips mounded around the base of your maple trees. The looser top layer of mulch will appeal just as much to bugs seeking refuge from the hot sun as it will to birds seeking easy eats.
SERVE UP A HEAPING PLATE FULL OF RECYCLED ‘GRIT’
Consuming fortified dairy products enables us to take in the calcium that our bodies need to thrive, but egg-laying birds rely on an altogether different dietary source – from naturally calcium-rich shells. You’ll do them a huge favor by supplying them with recycled chicken eggshells, preferably sterilized for 20 minutes via a 250 degree oven or 10 minutes in a pot of boiling water. Crush them into small bits, presenting them to your winged visitors in a separate tray along with pulverized oyster shells, tiny pebbles and sand, all of which will help them to properly digest and grind their food upon consumption.
CREATE DIY ‘ENERGY BARS’
Rewarding your fine feathered friends with – of all things – a tasty peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread will definitely make them return to your windowsill, doorstep or other avian-friendly perch over and over again. For an even lighter footprint, recycle bread that has seen better days – they certainly won’t mind. You might also consider making suet-based ‘cakes’ with recycled kitchen fat or rendered beef fat (often available at your local grocery store’s butcher department) since they’ll offer an equally respectable source of energy for insect-eating birds. Please bear in mind that when using fat of any kind, your birdie bars – embedded with millet and other types of tasty seeds – will have a relatively short shelf life (especially when exposed to the hot sun), so only whip them out when you have a clamoring crowd.
GROW SEED-BEARING EDIBLES
Flowering botanicals to consider include Aster, Black Eyed Susan, Calendula, Coneflower, Cosmos, Marigold, Snapdragon, Zinnia and pretty much any species of Sunflower due to their excellent protein, high energy seeds (the black oil variety, for example, contains as much as 24% protein and 50% oil)!
OFFER FRESH FRUIT & VEGETABLE SCRAPS
Composting the peels, seeds and wonky bits remaining from your kitchen prep work is certainly better than land filling them, but don’t you think that the wild bird population right outside your window would tweet with delight upon receiving such a scrumptious handout? Ummm, yeah they would! Don’t forget to offer them the scooped out seeds from fresh melons and other produce, either, as well as random plant-based treats such as raisins, orange sections, grapes, apple slices, etc.
BIRDS LIKE (HEALTHY) JUNK FOOD, TOO!
Okay, perhaps ‘junk food’ is too strong a term but snicky-snacks… now we’re talking. Noshing on the same old thing day after day can make even the most optimistic bird feel a little cranky, but if you shake things up by augmenting their daily offerings with an occasional surprise buffet of shelled unsalted peanuts, niger seeds, mealworms and/or waxworms, plain popped corn and maybe even some bread crumbs, you’ll witness them literally chattering with delight.
GROW BERRY-BEARING, BIRD-FRIENDLY BOTANICALS
- Crab Apple: A springtime stunner with its showy floral display, this deciduous tree does best in full sun, eventually producing multi-hued 2 inch fruit from summer to winter.
- Cherry: If you’re willing to share half of your crop with the birds, you’ll be treated to incredibly tasty anthocyanin-rich summertime fruit that basks in the glory of full-on sun.
- Dogwood: Partial shade to full sun suits this class of trees and shrubs quite well, revealing clusters of delicate springtime flowers that eventually give way to bright red fruit that lasts well into December.
- Firethorn: Offering a punch of green to your landscape no matter the season, this thorned shrub thrives in full shade to full sun, offering feathered friends a late autumn berry buffet ranging in color from yellow and orange to brilliant red.
- Hawthorne: Requiring full sun, the shrubs and trees in this genus ultimately bear an assortment of rainbow colored fruit (orange, red, blue-green, yellow and black depending on the variety) in the autumn.
- Holly: Several species of this attractive holiday décor favorite require light shade to full sun, and their red berries finally become bird-friendly after enduring several deep wintertime freezes.
- Mountain Ash: Sporting a grey bark and clusters of attractive white flowers, this member of the rose family requires light shade to full sun and bears bright red or orange berries in the autumn months.
- Roses: These garden favorites thrive in full sun, and the bottom of each faded blossom produces a vitamin C-packed ‘hip’ or hypanthium which matures into a deep red fruit that birds simply relish.
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