Week of November 11

Attracting Birds to the Garden

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Birds are as important part of life in the garden as are different plants and insects. Insects are often considered to be either pests or beneficial. So are birds - friends or pests. Although after we have gardened for some time we tend to lose those definitions and divisions. We start to appreciate nature without strictly defining and categorizing the life in our gardens.
Even the organisms considered as pests by most can be helpful in your garden and friends at times can be enemies. We come to realize that garden thrives by having a variety of life and the more species a garden has the better it grows. Lesser is the diversity in the garden more is the attention and pampering required by your lonely plants.
As the garden matures different bird species find their way in.
To have a safe and healthy environment for birds and to attract them to the garden here are some things that we may do in our gardens.

  • Leave the herbs and other flowering plants to go into seeding stage. No bird feeder can replace this bird food that nature provides and you will be surprised by visits even from uncommon birds.
  • Have bird feeders in the garden. These do not have to be always store bought. Being creative with what can be found around the house can give us more attractive bird feeders than are available in market. It is a good way to reuse and recycle old items in the house. If you do buy from the store always look for something that is durable and will last for years.
  • Have a bird bath/ water source for the birds. This is specially important in our desert climate. Even in winter the weather can be very dry and water is always scarce for the wild life.
  • Having some dense bushes in the garden helps the smaller birds to have a hiding place. Some small birds like to go in these bushes to hunt for insects
  • Plants with fruits and berries are a real pleasure for birds. We can cover our fruit trees with bird netting but a few branches can be left for the birds.
  • Instead of throwing any fruit that is going bad put it on a tree. Just insert the soft fruit on a twig. If birds are frequent visitors in your garden they will discover it. If they don’t find it for next two days, well then bury the fruit in the soil where it will be a delight for the good soil bugs including earthworms.
  • It is best if we do not feed the birds cooked food or any of the processed foods we consume. We do not know what effect will cooked or processed foods will have on birds as birds do not find such food in nature.
  • There are number of bird feeds available in the garden centers and other stores. It is good to buy something that in its natural state and not altered much. For example there are seed cakes and blocks available which off course do not occur as such in nature. They may contain preservatives or the state of food may be artificially altered which may not necessarily be good for birds. We should not buy bird feeds based on nutrient claims as we do not have the complete knowledge of what nutrient may or may not be good for them. It is safest to feed them food as it occurs in its natural state.
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A bird feeder in the form of a table and chair set. These are planter stands that were no longer being used in the garden. A cinder block is placed in the center and topped with a spare floor tile to create a small table. This "coffee table" is used for bird seeds and smaller and larger birds love to gather around this table-chair set. In this picture a watermelon slice is being enjoyed by grackles.
Grackles which often are considered pests, if you read about them on the web, can be of help in the garden too. They limit the population of crickets, fly larvae, caterpillars, grubs and some other insects in the garden. The same is true for other birds, small or large. It is true that some will eat the good insects too but overall they bring diversity to a garden which is always helpful.
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Home made bird feeder by attaching a terra-cotta planter tray to a wooden plank with a screw. Tie some twigs for the birds to sit an hop on.
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This picture is of a lesser goldfinch which is not very common in El Paso yet was enjoying basil seeds in an El Paso urban backyard.
It is always pleasant to see and hear the birds in the garden as they loudly announce and celebrate a happy, thriving garden.