Help attract birds to landscape with food, water, shelter
by Sue Allen
December 14, 2012 01:16 AM | 1216 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When we moved into our new home eight years ago in Cherokee County, we needed to landscape our backyard since there was only Georgia red clay and rocks. We contacted a local landscaper and shared with him what we wanted to accomplish. The No. 1 item on my wish list was to attract birds to our backyard and the No. 1 item for my husband, Mike, was low maintenance and drought tolerant plants. Well, the landscaper accomplished my wish list, but not quite so much for my husband — he has pruning, pruning and more pruning. There are three essential elements you will need to attract birds: food, water and shelter. My husband surprised me by asking our landscape architect to include a pond with a waterfall. Once he asked for a pond to be included I knew the birds would come. The sound of flowing water attracts them. Besides drinking the water they also like to take baths in the shallow end of the stream.

When planning your bird sanctuary, include trees and shrubs that provide food. You can do this by selecting native trees and shrubs that bear fruit and berries for the local bird population. If your landscape does not supply food during certain periods, you can supplement with commercial bird seed. Birds eat a wide variety of seeds while others prefer only one or two types; however, sunflower seeds appeal to the majority of birds.

If you wish to keep the birds as long-term residents, you will need to provide shelter to protect them from inclement weather and natural predators, such as cats and hawks. This is why birds prefer multi-stem plants that form a dense canopy. The dense canopy also provides an ideal environment for nesting. Since birds require shelter year-round, your yard should have a mix of deciduous and evergreen.

Don’t forget to provide fresh water to maintain your bird population. The water source should be shallow (no more than 2 to 3 inches deep) and replaced on a regular basis. Running water, such as a shallow water fountain or a pond with a waterfall is ideal. Your water source should be elevated and in an open area to minimize predator attacks. Birds require water year-round, so it is important to keep it available, even during the winter months.

Now that winter is upon us and you have time to plan out your bird sanctuary you might want to incorporate some of these southeastern plants, trees and shrubs into your yard:

American Beautyberry, Beech, Black-Eyed Susan, Black Gum, Blueberry, Coral Honeysuckle, Dogwood, Elderberry, Hawthorn, Holly, Hot Lips Sage, Magnolia, Oaks, Pines, Purple Cone Flower, Red Cedar, River Birch, Salvia Sage, Silphium, Sumac, Sweet Gum, Virburnum, Wax Myrtle and Youpon Holly.

In the winter months I feed the birds suet. Here is a suet recipe the birds love: 1 cup lard, 1 cup crunchy peanut butter, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 cup of oatmeal, 2 cups cornmeal and raisins or dried fruit. Melt lard and peanut butter. Add other ingredients. Mix well, put into freezer. Upon removal cut into squares to fit your suet feeder.

Information about Extension Solutions for Homes and Gardens can be found on the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension website at or by contacting the Cherokee County Extension Office at 100 North St., Suite G21 in Canton at (770) 479-0418. The Georgia Extension Master Gardener Program is a volunteer training program offered through county offices of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

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