to make your yard a premiere destination on the avian fly-over map?
With the right materials and a little know-how, you can provide a five
diamond, year-round resort for all of your fine feathered friends.
Popular on the coasts, birdscaping is now just "winging"
its way to the Midwest. Homeowners who practice birdscaping
intentionally design their yards to encourage avian visitors.
To survive, all birds need food, shelter, water and a place to
nest. Any location must consistently provide each of these components
to make it attractive for them to initially stop and eventually
Sounds like a lot of work, but homeowners donít have to rip out
all of their existing flora and start from scratch. Many times itís
simply a matter of leveraging current resources and supplementing them
with some additional enticements.
"Using native plants and plants with seed heads, fruit-bearing
trees and shrubs provides you with the landscaping material you need
along with food for the birds," says Belinda Abendschein, a
landscape designer with Durham Hill Nursery in Mukwonago. "I try
to use a lot of natives. Birds themselves are more familiar with
them." A birder herself, Abendschein is one of the areaís
proponents of the birdscaping trend.
prefer native plants and shrubs says, Durham Hill Nurseryís
Fruit-bearing plants such as viburnums and flowering crab trees
provide homeowners with a fabulous show of flowers in the spring and
food well into the winter for the birds. "The top runner for
birdscaping is the viburnum, which comes in many varieties," says
John Lamm of the Jackson-based Lammscapes Nursery. Other desirable
shrubs include mock orange, forsythia and snowberries. Donít forget
feeders filled with seeds for those who only eat seeds.
But be careful what you fill those feeders with, says Abendschein.
"Use high quality seed. Lower quality seeds attract house
sparrows and European starlings, both of which are invasive. They
compete with the native birds for food and will even kick bluebirds
out of their nests." Nix the bread crusts and day-old bagels too,
which only attract starlings.
Their small size belies the fact that they need a consistent source
of water. Unless a homeowner installs a heated bird bath or a pond
system that runs all winter, our feathered friends have to rely on
getting their liquid refreshment from snow. When a lack of snow cover
eliminates that option, they will look elsewhere for water.
A backyard pond with a running waterfall or stream almost
guarantees an extended stay. "Any time you add water to a
landscape youíre certain to attract a lot of birds," says Doug
Hurth of Hurth Construction and Ponds Plus in Saukville. "At my
house I have a stream and I always have birds."
"Running water seems to be a real trigger for birds,"
Abendschein adds. "I think itís the sound that attracts
them." Thereís no need to turn your yard into Niagara Falls.
Small pools with pumps or waterfalls keep water moving and eliminate
the need for algae-preventing chemicals.
Predators such as cats and foxes view birds as a tasty treat so
shelter is an important consideration when designing your yard.
"Junipers give a lot of cover low to the ground," says Lamm.
"Evergreens protect birds from wind and snow."
hummingbird feeder amongst flower beds is sure to attract
Along with shelter there should always be areas for nesting.
Shelter and nesting places are not necessarily the same thing. Wrens,
chickadees and woodpeckers are cavity-dwelling birds that donít
build their nests in a tree. Nesting boxes provide a simple yet
adequate rental home for these species.
Beverly Karweikís rural Mukwonago backyard is on its way to
becoming a top-rated avian destination. Last April, the Karweiks hired
Durham Hill to update their yard. Abendschein drew up a plan that
would capitalize on what the Karweiks already had, filling in with
some additional plants and shrubs for support.
Removing existing bushes that werenít contributing to the overall
plan, Abendschein kept the Karweiksí evergreen and pine trees, a
flowering crab and a flowering almond tree. Flower beds with a variety
of plants were installed with grass borders. A new bridge now covers
the septic system. Water was routed through a hollowed log into a
pond. And just for fun, a fire pit was included in the final plan.
Already their yard is the talk of the bird grapevine. Since last
summer, the Karweiks have played host to cardinals, robins and
bluebirds, downy woodpeckers, orioles, juncos and finches. The sand
hill cranes came by to lunch on the ornamental grasses. Red-bellied
sapsuckers, scarlet tanagers, even rose-breasted grosbeaks and
goldfinches have paid a visit. "You name it, weíve just about
had them," says Karweik. "The hummingbirds went for the bee
balm located off the deck. They were having their feast."
Hummingbirds were what Lisa Bienkowski wanted to attract when she
redesigned her Pewaukee gardens. Having gotten tired of the usual
flower suspects, she planted lots of "tropical things that donít
survive well in Wisconsin," she says. "I had some in my yard
when I lived in Ohio and I was thinking about what kind of garden to
put in. I decided I wanted a different kind of garden." So seven
or eight beds are now filled with flowers such as salvias, bee balm,
candy cane vine, lantanas and honeysuckles. And more are on the way.
Knowledge of this veritable buffet has made the rounds among the
hummingbird population. "I would see a few every day," says
Bienkowski, "but in the fall during migration, I would see five
to 10 at a time. It really picks up during September and
Many birds remember where the good locations are and are apt to
return in the spring. "Itís true that they remember where the
food is, especially hummingbirds and orioles," says Abendschein.
Choose the right components and your yard, too, can be added to the
avian equivalent of MapQuest.