Birds have three main requirements in life; food, water, and shelter. These needs should be met through proper management of the backyard habitat.
The bird species in our area and their food requirements change with the seasons. A primary food source for migrant and residents birds in the spring is caterpillars and other insects. As we progress throughout the summer, breeding birds feed on insects and fruits as the become available. As migrant birds and their offspring fly south in the fall, they seek out fruits, which are high in energy and help to offset the energy lost during migration.
As you visit local garden centers this time of year for good deals, keep in mind that fall is a great time for planting. Reevaluate your landscape and make sure you include early and late fruiting plants that provide food such as blueberries, spicebush, or a variety of hollies.
If you can tolerate it, and your neighbors will allow, leave an area of your landscape unmanicured to promote additional fruit and seed production. Keep in mind that plant diversity, especially native plants, are as important as the fruit and seeds that produce. You want to plant variety of species that will serve as a home to leaf eating insects that birds devour.
Bird feeders may serve as a supplement to the natural foods in our backyard. Common seeds to consider buying include black oil sunflower, safflower, and white millet. Purchasing these seeds in bulk make prove to be a bit cheaper in the long run. If you decide to provide feeders, remember that you should continue to provide this food source throughout the year.
Normally water is not considered a limiting component of bird habitat in western North Carolina, however it may become scarce in years of drought. Birds normally obtain water from food sources, rain pools, or permanent sources. If you decide to provide a bird bath, remember to keep it shallow (2-3 inches deep). Place the bird bath within 10 feet of shrubby protection and close to the ground. Some birds will not use a bath that is high off the ground.
Dense vegetation will provide birds with a place to escape from harsh weather and predators. A variety of plant types should cover most of the needs for different bird species. Use grasses, shrubs, and trees to cover all your bases. Remember that evergreens are an important component to any wildlife habitat throughout the year.
Learn more about creating habitat for birds and other wildlife with native plants from NCSU’s website, Going Native: Urban Landscaping for Wildlife with Native Plants,
Photo taken by Fred Hurteau