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Make your yard a haven for birds

By Sue Davis
Rowan County Master Gardener Volunteer
Having a bird-friendly yard on a summer day can bring you great entertainment from a chair in a cool house.
Watching a gold finch bob on the purple flowers of a verbena, watching a group of fledglings try to make their first landing on the feeder, or watching a cardinal take a full bath in the bird bath are just a few of the ever-changing scenes. It is not too late to create a place in your yard for birds, butterflies and hummingbirds.
Inviting birds to your yard is a commitment to meeting three basic requirements: food, cover and water. Looking from the eyes of birds and butterflies as they fly over your lawn, do they see a place to nest, food to eat and water to bathe in or drink and a place to hide? Warblers, vireos, wrens and many others like to find backyards where insect pests are available. Once you attract insect-loving birds to your yard, you will have a natural help to control garden pests.
To create cover, you could begin a brush pile where you put weeds, cuttings, branches from pruning. Over time, this area will become a natural cover for hiding and nesting.
Begin the transformation to bird-friendly conservatively. New plants take time and resources to get started. Focus on using the plants that are still available at local garden centers. Annuals are an effective way to provide splashes of color throughout your garden.
Birds and butterflies are highly visual and are attracted to colored fruits and flowers. Hummingbirds are interested in red and orange tubular flowers. Butterflies will come to sip nectar and lay eggs. Flowering bushes and plants that produce fruit after the burst of summer or fall color are available now. They will take a good bit of attention during the drought to keep them going but would be worth the investment.
By including plants such as daisies, sunflowers, marigolds and zinnias, cosmos, verbena, lantana and asters, birds and butterflies will be encouraged to stay in your backyard. Members of the Hyssop family provide flowers enjoyed by hummingbirds and seeds for gold finches. Coreopsis or Tick Weed provides bright flowers and seed in the fall for small seed eaters. Cone flowers, now available in many colors also provide a bounty in the fall for seed eaters.
The common sunflower is popular and familiar to the birds and fun to grow in the corner of a bed. Salvias, bee balm and red Columbine also draw birds and butterflies into your yard. They will spread and do not require much maintenance.
One of our local garden centers can help you identify both native plants and other hardy plants that are familiar food for birds. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and talk about your plans. Garden Centers can help you stage your plan so that it is more efficient, cost effective and drought tolerant.
They will also provide information about gardening with fewer chemicals to create a safe food environment for birds and butterflies and for your pets and other wildlife that visits your yard.
Sue Davis is a Master Gardener Volunteer for Cooperative Extension in Rowan County.

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