It's true that birds eat such garden delicacies as blueberries and strawberries, but you may be willing to share part of your crop. After all, the sight of birds flitting brings its own beauty and charm to your garden and yard.
From a practical standpoint, birds are a great help in controlling insect pests. How much more fruitful is a pear tree for all the pear psylla eggs eaten by nuthatches? Cardinals feast on cutworms, rose beetles and leaf hoppers. Waxwings, thrushes, titmice, robins and orioles are also insect feeders. Hardly a garden insect pest escapes attack by some kind of bird.
For their beauty and benefits, birds are worth attracting to the garden. The four essentials for attracting birds are water, food, a hospitable environment, and protection from cats.
Birds love shallow pockets of water, whether it's a birdbath, rainwater in a wheelbarrow or mere puddles. Birds need water near where they are busy nesting and gathering food. A sloping-edged birdbath is best so that big and little birds can wade in at different depths. Birdbaths should be shallow, only 2 inches deep at the center, and with a rough surface to prevent slipping. Scrub the bath occasionally to get rid of algae, and refresh it with clean water.
Two essentials for attracting birds--a hospitable environment and food--are closely linked. Birds hang around areas where nesting sites and materials are ample. In such habitats, foods such as fruits and seeds usually abound.
No need to get fancy creating a bird sanctuary. Merely encourage thickets, tangled shrubs, trees, meadows and flowers to grow, or at least remain. Thicket-type bushes establish quickly. More than 100 species of birds--including rose-breasted grosbeak, cedar waxwing, Baltimore oriole and bluebird--are attracted to raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, bayberry and hawthorn. Vines and low-growing shrubs such as Virginia creeper, trumpet creeper, grape, honeysuckle and ground juniper attract more than 20 bird species.
Nectar and seeds are what make flowers attractive to birds. Bee balm, columbine, butterfly weed, coral bells and delphinium will bring hummingbirds garden in search of nectar. Goldfinches love seeds of sunflower and cosmos.
Even shade trees provide bird feed. Bobwhite, chickadee and pine siskin are among birds that enjoy pine nuts. The flowers and acorns of red and white oaks are eaten by the cardinal, blue jay, downy woodpecker and rose-breasted grosbeak.
Lastly, consider cats. Even the friendliest feline cannot resist stalking birds as they frolic in a bath. Keep shrubs, notorious hiding places for cats, at least 10 feet away from a birdbath.
Many species of birds migrate great distances. Provide water, food, a hospitable environment, and cat protection for birds, and your garden can be a their seasonal home.