My yard has been registered as a “Wild Life Habitat” for more than 20 years so a number of my plants are to attract birds.  I have listed 44 different species so far, which is actually very few as Nebraska is listed as the cross road for several hundred species. Just lately I have been seeing lists of favorite birds or best known ones. Robins are near the top of most every time. We watch for them every spring. You will need some lawn for them to hop in and lilt their head to hear worms.  Every year I have several who follow me if I have a spade or a hoe to pick up the worms, which is their favorite food. In winter they like fruit and berries such as Hawthorne or Chokeberries.  My friend Sheila puts out raisins and she has several that watch for her to come home.  Robins also eat on the patio with the Doves. We need to have trees for them to nest as they do not go into cavities or nest boxes. They do like the drain pipes coming down from the roof. Most pipes have a turn just under the roof which makes a good nest site.  The south side of my garage has one and if the winter winds destroy it, they soon build a new one.

          The tiny black and white Chickadees are here in the winter and usually in groups.  I had a “bunch” live in a Cedar Tree last winter. One can see them hanging upside down as they look for insects. They are not fussy eaters. They will eat bread, hamburger, baked goods, nuts, peanut butter, suet and either black or Striped Sunflower seeds. They are constantly in motion. You can plant a row or patch of sunflowers for winter food. The one catch is squirrels that will probably get there first. Their weight usually breaks the head off.

          As soon as I see the Junco’s (also known as Snow Birds) arrive on my patio, I think winter is now  here! You need thick bushes in your yard for them to hide in.  On my patio I feed in 3 levels. First the ground where most of the food is eaten. Second is the picnic table where I feed a wild bird mix to Cardinals and where the squirrels are found. On the third level are the hanging tube feeders full of Niger Seed for the Goldfinch, House Finches and the Pine Siskins. These hanging feeders are also good for Sunflower Seeds of different sizes including the shelled Sunflower Hearts. These hanging feeders are my most popular feeders. If the Squirrels can’t jump or climb to them, the small perches are too small for the them and for larger birds. Plant climbing vines near your feeder and the birds can hide when a Hawk comes by. The Hyacinth Bean is thick and sturdy with its big purple bean pods.  These and other  vines have insects in there for the  birds to eat.  A seat on the north side of a trellis covered with a vine is a neat resting place for you.

          Doves are  a favorite yard bird and fun to watch. Their small heads and long necks give them an interesting walk.  They are the poorest nest builders I know.  Each winter I have 6 to 8 that stay in the yard.  They like Millet seed and Cracked Corn which is  found in most bird seed mixes. They are ground feeders, liking many weed seeds.

          Compost is not only good for your plants but for the birds too.  Robins especially will dig in your damp pile to pull out the worms or insects that live there.  I watch a number of different birds go under the bushes and toss leaves or compost aside to find breakfast hiding underneath. After cooking, dry your eggshells and then go over them with a rolling pin and put them out. The birds will eat the shells along with their food for the calcium to make more egg shells. Or you can put them on the compost pile or on the ground with the  other food.

          Flower beds are important for  your Bird Garden. Most of our annuals are good seed producers.  Cosmos bloom, then bloom again leaving seeds hanging for Gold Finches, Siskins, and House Finches.  I sometimes don’t cut my tall Ornamental Grasses before spring so that some days I can see the littlest birds swinging on the stems to collect seeds. Zinnias are listed for Cardinals, Chickadees, Goldfinch, Siskins, Sparrows, and Titmice. Cone Flowers and Goldenrod’s are eaten by this same group of birds. Many “bird writers” frown on cutting down any flowering plants before spring.

          One of my favorites is the little Goldfinches, also known as Wild Canaries. They eat their seeds at the same time as sitting on them. Niger Seed is their favorite but you can grow Zinnia’s, Millet, Ornamental Grass, Goldenrod, Asters, Cone Flowers and many others. Males are dull like the females when they first arrive but you can watch as they exchange for the bright black and gold feathers. Sometimes they arrive as early as February, leave again to nest in the country to get the soft “puff” from plants that have gone to seed to build their nest, and then return to eat from your feeders. . If things are right you may have Goldfinches all year.

          In future articles I will list more favorites and their needs.

Copyright 2013.