With the bitter cold temperatures and snow cover at the moment my heart really goes out to our little feathered friends. Our chickens have a coop, and we bring them their food and water, but the chickadees, tufted titmice, cardinals, woodpeckers, blue jays, and nuthatches don't quite have that luxury. Like so many others we trudge out in the snow to fill the feeder, knock out frozen water, and then happily watch from our window as the pear tree fills with so many lively little ornaments. I like to think the pear tree enjoys the company in its old age, too. (And it seems to lend the screech owl a hand, too.)
As pivotal members of our ecosystem - eating the bugs we are not fond of like mosquitoes and cabbage worms - birds will come if encouraged. (Do watch out in early spring for birds who want to share the seeds you plant. Mourning doves absconded with some of my bok choi this past spring. Just use a row cover until the seeds sprout.) Native plants and trees provide food and shelter throughout the year - attracting bird snacks in the spring and summer, necessary nectar during bloom time, and tasty seeds in the winter - that help birds survive and thrive.
Here are a few ideas and resources to learn about and encourage birds:
- Build a bird garden to specifically attract them.
- Find a native plant nursery to visit and learn more about the plants best for birds.
- Check out Birdscaping in the Midwest by Mariette Nowak or Bringing Nature Home by Douglas Tallamy to get inspiration and information.
- Get a bird guidebook and see who's hanging out. You don't even need binoculars, although they are handy sometimes.
- Learn about Michigan Bluebirds and how to invite these lovely little ones to visit and live nearby.
- Simply put up a feeder out in your yard and see what happens. It may be a little messy, but I say that's a good sign for sandwiches so it must hold true for most things.