How to attract birds to your yard in the Southeast
As fall sets in around the Southeast, birds spring into action preparing for cooler, shorter days. It’s a great time to try birdscaping to attract birds to your yard by adding to your landscape plants and sources of food that attract and support the birds you enjoy watching. In creating a welcoming habitat, you’ll provide a landscape that offers shelter, protection and space to raise their young.
Creating such a space is something Dan Fendley understands well. As owner of the highly rated landscape design firm, Plant It Forward in Monticello, Fla., Fendley says he’s an educator first, working to combine his clients’ desires with their landscape using environmental practices. “When clients are interested in attracting wildlife, I try to encourage them to use a variety of plants and educate them as to why birds are attracted to the food sources they recognize,” Fendley says. “Sweet gum tree seed pods attract goldfinches, even though people find the ‘gum balls’ a nuisance. Wax myrtle is a great native shrub or small tree with little berries that birds feed on all winter. Salvia, pentas and firespike are all good for hummingbirds.”Fendley offers a word of caution for clients who want to include a water feature in their habitat landscape. “When they ask me for a pond, I let them know they’re getting a whole ecosystem and that includes more than just birds that are attracted to the water,” he says.As residential development and cultivated landscapes continue to replace natural habitat, our backyards take on new importance in supporting birds and wildlife. To better understand the impact on bird populations, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University has launched Yard Map. A citizen scientist project, Yard Map identifies people across the country who use their yards to support birds and document their common features.
In Baton Rouge, La., unusual climate shifts have impacted `wildlife and people alike. “We go from one extreme to the other,” says Ray Forrest, owner of highly rated Sasquatch Designs Landscape and Maintenance. “We’ve had mild winters for the last four to five years. This spring we had lots of rain. Now we have drought.” Forrest says homeowners often maintain hummingbird feeders year-round when there’s nothing in bloom. When it comes time to plant, he suggests anything with a tubular bloom to attract the bird. “Firecracker flower, shrimp plant and salvia are all good.”In Beaufort, S.C., Brian Franklin, co-owner of highly rated Outdoor Architecture, approaches the topic of birdscaping with diversity. He says it’s not just about including plants as food sources, but also using trees and shrubs that provide nesting materials and areas for birds to perch. Franklin suggests combining shrubs that produce berries or seed heads of perennials and annuals as companions to bird feeders in order to create an ideal habitat. Smaller landscapes can accomplish bird friendly environments by growing food source plants in pots and clustering them together with bird feeders.
Ellen Goff is a freelance horticulture writer and photographer who’s passionate about plants, water quality and the environment. She also stays busy with her own landscape and its inhabitants along the shores of Lake Wylie, S.C.