The common conception of a garden designed and planted to attract birds is one with berry bearing shrubs and scrubby branching to protect birds from predators.

These aspects are only two of many factors to consider if you desire avian visitors. Different bird species have different needs, but some garden practices will benefit them all.

Water, the elixir of life, is probably the most important component for attracting birds to your garden. Shallow pools of clean water give them not only a cool drink, but also a place to splash around and clean the dust off their feathers.

One of the nicest gardens I’ve visited used simple objects to place small pools throughout the landscape. Inverted garbage can lids or abandoned shallow sinks can be integrated and disguised to become wet refreshment for birds. (Flying insects, butterflies, wasps and worms also need moisture when the dry summer months arrive to fill their place on the food chain.)

Robins and mockingbirds eat similar things. These two are foragers. They like to scratch the ground for seed, toss fallen leaves here and there and keep their head cocked for worms. Woody groundcovers with low hanging berries supplement their diets.

High in popularity is the hummingbird. Gardens with a succession of blooming perennials or shrubs that appeal to hummingbirds are not difficult to design. Bright, tubular flower forms of pineapple sage, salvia, lupine and honeysuckle are the first choice for attracting hummers.

Nectar is their source of fuel, yet studies support the fact that hummingbirds rely on small insects to supply them with proteins, vitamins and minerals. They supplement their sugar with gnats, mosquitoes, thrips, aphids and ants. If it is small enough, they’ll eat it. Hummers may hawk (spot the prey and catch it in midair) or glean the insects from branch tips and leaf surfaces.

Is there anything not to like about hummingbirds?

Some consider birds more of a pain than a blessing. Orchardists look upon birds as competition rather than a valuable addition to their orchard. Vegetable gardeners consider them a nuisance. We use scarecrows, flashy objects and nets to protect our crops.

I hope I am never in such a hurry I can’t enjoy or share with my feathered friends. Remember the lyrics “the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees”? We all fit together to create the Father’s song.

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