Don’t stop feeding the birds! March 26, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in critters, gardening, homesteading.
Tags: bird feeding, birdbaths, birds, Birds & Blooms
It’s me, Richard Saunders of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame, here to remind all you gardeners and homesteaders that it’s not yet time to put away the birdfeeders. It may look like spring, with the robins returning and the bulbs in bloom, but until the soil is warm and insect life is abundant, the birds still need your help. In fact, experts say that now is the most important time to feed the birds. After all, they’ve just completed a grueling return migration and they’re preparing for courtship, nest-building, and egglaying. All these activities require a lot of energy—and there are few bugs and pretty much no seed- or nectar-bearing plants out there to feed them.
I do realize that you may not want a litter of feeders—not to mention seed hulls and other detritus—spoiling your lovely spring landscape. And I don’t blame you! One of my primary winter feeders is a big, rustic hopper feeder that’s on a tree over one of my prettiest garden beds. In spring, the bed is full of beautiful blooming bulbs. So when I see the first sign of shoots emerging, I simply stop filling that feeder. But I keep the tube feeders going until it’s warm enough to set plants out on the deck. You might want to keep one or two tube feeders filled, and clean and store the rest. And you can always move the feeders to a less conspicuous part of the yard.
Of course, lots of folks enjoy feeding the birds year-round and think that their colorful antics enhance the garden. (If you’re one of them and you don’t know Birds & Blooms magazine, check it out—I think you’d enjoy it.) I set out feeders at the end of summer last year just to see what would happen, and loved seeing the goldfinches clustering round with their bold yellow plumage (in fall, they moult and become a much less conspicuous yellow-olive). So I think this year I’ll keep a tube feeder up for them year-round, filled with their favorite Nyjer seed. There are always goldfinches back in the meadow garden, but the tube feeder will bring them closer so I can enjoy the show!
Don’t forget the water, either. It’s even more important than food. Luckily, birdbaths come in so many styles that it’s easy to find one that will be an asset in your landscape rather than an eyesore. And you can always tuck one discreetly among plants at ground level—they don’t have to be on pedestals (unless, of course, you have outdoor cats in your neighborhood!). Keep in mind that birds like shallow water—no more than an inch or two deep—so if your birdbath is too deep, add some pebbles so the birds can perch safely while they drink or bathe. And please hose it out every day or two so the water stays fresh and mosquito-free.
So keep a feeder or two going and add a birdbath to your yard. Just these two simple steps are all it takes for your backyard birds to enjoy spring as much as you do.
What about hummingbirds, you ask? When you’re choosing plants for the garden, remember to add a few nectar-bearers like columbines, monarda (bee balm), and trumpetvine for the hummers. If you plant them near the deck, patio, porch, or wherever you enjoy relaxing, you can bring hummingbirds up close and enjoy their antics without having to worry about filling nectar feeders.